Candlelights And Roses

The light of the moon shone on the walls of the balcony. He enjoyed the serenity as the night air blew on his afro fade cut and his brown eyes navigated the busy landscape ahead of him, his eyes sometimes meeting those of the Statue of Liberty.

He had stood there for three hours, lost in his many thoughts. He had a decision he was to execute that evening, and everything was set. He was not sure it was right, but he was determined to do it anyway. To him, it was a step to true happiness, one he had not felt in a really long time.

He looked to his watch, it was half past eight. It was almost time.

He turned around and walked into the house, making his way straight to the dining room. The dining table was aesthetically pleasing; long scented red candles in vintage candle holders decorated its four corners, with a beautiful bouquet of roses laying at its centre, four pairs of short red candles surrounding it. Finely decorated dishes of lemon garlic butter shrimp with white rice and sauce lay on just one side of the table, next to a wine glass and a big bottle of Pierre Gonon Saint-Joseph.

Just like in the movies, he smiled.

This was his finest culinary work, which meant a lot because he was an extremely talented chef. It was perfect, there was nothing left to do. He then walked quietly up the stairs and straight to the master bedroom.

******************************************************************

Michelle had a long day, but it had a happy ending. She parked her Mercedes and hurriedly made her way to the front door, letting herself into her house, or rather he fiancée’s house. She almost missed what laid in wait for her in the dining room as she ran past it and brought herself back.

“Oh my God!” she exclaimed, as she hastily made her way to the table.

It was beautiful; she loved the vintage candle holders and how the scent of the candles filled the air. The meal looked divine, and of course he would get a bouquet of roses, her best flowers, in her best colours, red and white. Perks of dating a romantic chef who pays attention to details.

However, the table was obviously made for just one person; one set of plates, a set of cutleries, a wine glass and a bottle of wine.

Had he already eaten? she asked herself.

It was a question best asked to the one who made all this, which then begged the question of where he was.

“Baby, where are you?” she said in slightly loud voice as she took a taste of the shrimp.

She didn’t get any reply. She wondered what this husband-to-be had in store for her. It was not valentine’s day, neither was it her birthday nor their anniversary, and it surely was not a proposal, one where he already outdid himself. It was a very normal day for the much she knew, unless somehow he knew about the good news she brought and decided to celebrate it with this surprise.

But he couldn’t have; or could he?

She walked towards the stairway and made her way up the stairs, wondering if something awaited her in the bedroom, because obviously there was nothing or no one downstairs. She felt a mix of happiness, excitement, anxiety and curiosity as she galloped towards the bedroom like a child hunting for presents on Christmas day.

She was at the door of the bedroom now. She paused, took a deep breath, brought out her tongue in a goofy manner, and pulled on the handle of the door.

She really was excited.

She pushed the door open and walked in.

She was quiet for a while, trying to understand what she was looking at. All the positivity she had just before she opened the door was gone. Of all the surprises this man could pull up, of all the surprises she could think of, this was the last thing she expected.

She watched as the body of James, her fiancée, hung from the ceiling, rope around his neck and a stool lying on its side on the ground below him.

She could feel her heart break. She could feel the uneasiness in her belly and her rising heart rate. She could feel her body tremble as she let out a stifled moan, and then another, almost trying not to cry. She placed her hands on her mouth as hot tears ran down her cheeks.

Why could he be so selfish? Why would he do this when everything was going fine? What was the point of bringing him the big news?

*********************************************************************

Six months earlier…

The early morning New York sunlight beamed through the louvres across the bedroom. It was everything you would expect after a Friday night of wild drunk sex.

A black thong lay on the reading table, the reading lamp and ‘not so important’ documents on the floor beside it. The matching bra and a pair of male briefs lay alone on scattered bed covers while a naked couple were deep in sleep on the couch just across the room.

Michelle opened her eyes, the sunlight blinding her initially as she twitched and squeezed her face, also partly due to the hangover from the night before.

She stood up from the body of the man on whom she was laid, scanned the room and made her way to the reading table. She saw her phone on its side and picked it up.

“You must have had a long night, I wouldn’t want to bother you, just wanted to let you know I love you and can’t wait for you to be back.” She felt a surge of guilt the moment she read that text.

By now the man she was with had woken up as well.

“You still look beautiful to me even in the morning, I must really love you” he said with a gleaming smile as he struggled to his feet.

“Oh please stop it Mr. James Obasi” Michelle laughed, as she put on her underwear.
James stared at her while she dressed as he sat on the bed, thoughts racing through his mind.

She was bodacious. She was a five foot and seven inches build of chocolate delight. He felt she wasn’t busty, but that she more than made up for it behind and on the sides, which was the ideal figure of a woman for him.

She looked like a Lana Del Ray song; bold, elegant and dark, seductive yet innocent. Her body well-toned in about every area in almost a prime Beyoncé like manner.

James took this all in as he watched her “ransack” the room for her belongings and dress up. And the gown she put on didn’t help matters. He felt ready to go for another round at her.

“I have to hurry” she said as she put finishing touches to look as not “dickmatised” as possible.

“I have to read through a lot of contracts and I am a bit behind schedule.” She went over, laid a kiss on his cheek, turned and walked towards the door to leave. She pulled on the handle, drew open the door, paused and turned around;

“PS…I saw the proposal coming, you were not so sleek but I’ll let you have this one big head” she said as she smiled, stuck her tongue out and shut the door behind her.
James let out a loud laugh. He did it. He finally found the one. He has had his heart broken more times than he could count, and add that to a very bad childhood, growing up an only child of two drug addicts, and you would realise why she was a big deal to him.

He had to fend for himself and run away from the madness and beatings at home. He took solace in an old man who owned a diner and took him as his son, after he had lied that he had no parents or money. He could eat proper food there and stay as long as he wanted, learning to cook.

The old man nurtured him, showing him the love of a parent, but with a catch; he had sex with him. The old man was a paedophile. James had no parents to the best of the old man’s knowledge, so there were no apparent repercussions. For James, it was a small price to pay, since his father repeatedly did the same to him, on numerous occasions, with his mother watching. A very small price.

James grew up under the tutelage of the man until his death, and was made the new owner of the diner. He had the skills of a very good chef in a small diner in New York, and he also learnt to be an entrepreneur. Combine that with being street smart and soon afterwards he had grown the diner into a very big establishment with branches in more places than a wealthy man would eat in a lifetime, spanning various countries.

He was however a made man with no real sense of emotional or mental satisfaction. He never easily trusted people easily, and the few times he did, he was either back stabbed or cheated on. A girl he once dated told him he was over bearing and sulky every time he tried to open up. Another he loved with his whole heart cheated on him with his best friend, and they ended up getting married.

He usually felt bouts of anger and resentment and sadness and pain, but somehow managed to keep all those emotions bottled up when relating in public. He had one of the best smiles you would ever come across, he was cheerful and could infuse positive energy into a dull room. He however came back to his house removing the heavy mask of positivity he wore all day, to become his true self; a very unhappy man who has had countless suicidal thoughts.

This was the first time he felt genuine happiness with someone who was willing and able to both give him love for being him, and also listen to him vent and let out the built up anger, sadness and pain from the years past. He is thirty-eight now, and he has finally found the one in Michelle.

Michelle on the other hand grew up in a disciplined family. Raised to treat people with respect and dignity, she was usually the prim and proper polite woman who you would trust with your son. She was always sought after by men, you could almost say men were “rushing” her, not only because of her classy attitude, but also because she knew how to give you the best of both worlds. She was as good as she was as bad, like yin and yang, each showing themselves as the situation deems so. And that is one way she has kept her marriage of five years, up until now that she is engaged to get married to another man.

As she drove back to New Jersey, she pondered on what she should do. A drink became lunch, and then another, which became dinner and a night of sex, and moved on to many more nights of mind blowing sex and travels, and now here she was. She really messed around and caught feelings. She found herself saying yes to a proposal the night before, and her yes always means yes. She was really in love with another man.

She got home to her husband, Dr. Raphael Dean, who seemed to be working on his latest architectural piece, whatever that might be, she never really took interest in it.
He stood up with excitement on seeing her and went forward to kiss her.

It didn’t feel like James’.

He hugged her.

Still didn’t feel as good as James’, no matter how tight he made it to emphasize how much he missed her.

Damn, she thought to herself, she knew her remote belonged to James now.

They went on to enjoy lunch while she told him all about her business trip, that is aside the parts that involved orgasms and proposals, of which her husband has only been able to give her just the latter in honesty. She sometimes felt that was why she had not gotten pregnant yet, she felt the sex was too unsatisfactory to make her conceive.

The game intensified. She started having more foreign clients, busier days and numerous night work. Keeping one man is hard enough in the present day, but now she has to keep two? Sometimes the thought of the entire situation thrilled her, other times it was exhausting, but the one thing that she was sure of was that James was the one she would always want to be with. He was everything she never knew she needed.

But how was she to tell him the whole truth?
*****************************************************************

It was a Saturday night. Michelle had left her husband the week earlier under the excuse that she had to travel to London to close a contract.

She did tell the truth, she travelled to London, and you could call James the contract but he was the one that closed her on every night of that week.

Exhausted from the long day they spent out, Michelle decided to take her shower for the evening while James watched the NBA finals between the Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers on the large hotel television.

He was a very strong Stephan Curry fan, which should mean his eyes would be glued to the game, but somehow, he noticed Michelle’s phone was unlocked, unusually so.

He had always been curious about her messages and calls. He knew she was a busy woman, but what if she was hiding something, especially with how close she kept her phone.

The insecure part of him began to kick in, it was like a blessing from the gods, a force pulling him towards the phone, reminding him of how no one can be trusted, using his past experiences as examples.

But another part of him reasoned that perhaps this is just him looking for heartbreak, he might begin to interpret innocent conversations poorly and magnify scenarios into more than they really are.

It was an intense tug of war, one which was eventually won by the decision to trust Michelle, because she had well and truly earned it.

I deserve to be happy, he thought to himself, shifting his focus to the game, I don’t need to question if it is real but enjoy it while it lasts.

Michelle was done bathing. She put on her pink sleeping pyjamas and proceeded to the bed where James was laid.

“Hey big head” she said as she gently went under the covers, “wouldn’t you have your bath?”.

“I will, just want to finish the game” James replied with a wide smile.

There was a bit of silence, during which Michelle was weighing on the means to finally achieve her reason for organising the trip for the both of them.

“I need to tell you something” she said, in a very tame tone, which was still able to bring out every bit of anxiety of James as he turned to face her.

“Please just do not overreact or take me as a bad person” she continued, “I just didn’t know how to tell you”.

She went on to tell him all about her life and her husband and all she lied about.
It broke James.

He didn’t let out tears, his facial expression was blank almost throughout, but inside of him felt dead. It was the last straw. In that moment he told himself the minute he walked out that room he was killing himself. No more lies, no more sufferings, no more persecutory, unhappy thoughts.

However, Michelle came with a plan. She knew she could not just tell him all that without finding a way to appease him, cause then she might have as well committed murder.

She went on to try to assure him about how she had lost the love she had for her husband, and how she had already met a lawyer to start up divorce proceedings. Knowing she might be the last person he would trust at that moment, she showed him documents in a bid to prove what she was saying. She wanted to show she was all in for him and she was going to do everything possible to prove it.

Somehow that gave James some level of satisfaction and made the suicidal thoughts regress. She gave him a rope to climb out of the deep well she threw him into just moments earlier. It made him happy to see she was going through all that, just to be with him. He didn’t care about the other man. For once, he will put himself first. He was going to be selfish.

*****************************************************************

Time went by, and it seemed the divorce was taking a lot more time than it should have. Raphael was very reluctant in agreeing to the divorce, and quite understandably so, seeing as she brought it out of nowhere.

All she said was that she was no longer interested in the marriage, but he felt it was nonsense. She was not trying to take any part of his wealth or property, which meant she wanted to just leave, and in a hurry, and he wanted know why. But try as he may, he was always going to meet a brick wall if he was going to her for answers, he had to go in search of them.

He loved her, he really did, and more than that he saw her as his trophy, something he always used to brag about to people, and made it look like there was no one else capable enough to get or keep a woman like her. He was overprotective, sometimes turning violent when she would go out for long periods for reasons not related to her work. He was insecure and somewhat possessive of her, but he tried his best to keep it at bay. It was part of the reason Michelle started to lose the love she had for him, sometimes he scared her because she knew domestic violence starts from the little acts of being controlling before it escalates. So while losing someone he loved was infuriating, he was also losing control of her, and that was what disturbed him the most.

After two months of Michelle not budging and seriously pressing for the divorce, he finally gave in. He could not believe he was going to lose his marriage, his woman, his trophy.

It hurt him, it hurt him so bad he wanted to kill something, someone.

*****************************************************************

James kept his distance but followed the proceedings of the divorce. He had eyes and ears to let him know about what was going on, not to the knowledge of Michelle though. She wanted him to stay calm and away from it all, assuring him all would be sorted out in the end. But James couldn’t, no matter how hard he tried. He was going to satisfy his urge to know, unlike the time in the hotel in London.

However, after a while of following the madness of the divorce, the possibilities of finding himself in the same situation as Dr. Raphael began to dawn on him. He had a large collection of various forms of heartbreak, but the pain of being married to someone for some time, only to lose them because they fell in love with someone else, was one that he felt would be too painful to bear.

He was happy, knowing how much Michelle was fighting to take a place by his side, no one had given him that much, but how long were they going to last?

She once loved her husband, she once would do anything for him, but somehow she fell out of love and is now fighting to break away from him, to go into the arms of another man who is already her husband to be. He knew he could be overthinking, but was it really worth it?

At this point, James was in self-destruct mode. His mind was getting chaotic with thoughts and possibilities and what could be and what could have been. He even at a point felt the divorce was really not happening, and even if it did, she might still some day go back to Raphael.

That was it. He was tired of navigating through so much emotions and problems, wondering when the next heart ache would come. Change is constant, so he did not feel this happiness or any happiness he would feel would last. There was always going to be periods of unhappiness.

He was going to silence it all.

On the day the divorce proceedings were finally done, he had decided he would take his life. He would rather remember these moments as his last, end his life knowing someone was genuinely good to him and all she did was for him and to try not to hurt him.

He knew that was selfish, but that was the first time in his life he felt he had something to be selfish about. He did not care what would become of Michelle if he goes ahead, he knew it would hurt her deeply, but he was going to put himself first. He only wished the idea popped in his head before the divorce went as far as it did.
He went shopping. He got a bouquet of red and white roses, the ones she always loved. He got her favourite wine, scented candles, ingredients for her favourite meal and a pack of sleeping pills.

He consoled himself with thoughts that he would have still done this for her if he was not taking his life.

He got home, prepared the meal and set a table for her.

He was very calm and gentle, more so than usual. He was not in a hurry; he was going to savour the moment. He went to the balcony and watched as the sun began to set.

****************************************************************

Michelle called the police. She still could not come to terms with what had happened. After all she had gone through, he still went ahead with such a self-centred decision; that was all she saw it as.

The police had barricaded her house to go through it without interference and search for any form of evidence that might suggest it was not suicide.

Her ex-husband somehow showed up at the scene but she did not care. She wanted comfort at that point. She needed to be held and consoled, especially when the body of James, wrapped up in a bag, was stretched out. It was the most heart-breaking period of her life.

“Ma’am,” a police officer called out to her as he stepped out of the building, “can we talk privately please?”

She excused herself from Raphael and went with the policeman some distance from all the chaos.

“This is an empty pack of newly purchased sleeping pills” the officer said, holding to her an evidence bag containing an empty card for tablets and its pack. “This was purchased today by the deceased and we found out that he eventually took them.”
At this point Michelle was a bit puzzled as to why James would want to kill himself by both overdosing himself and hanging. Wouldn’t that be an “overkill”?

The police man continued. “We also found on investigating the house that there were a set of footprints that did not belong to you or the deceased, which were traced to the window of the master bedroom, suggesting there was someone else in the building with the deceased.”

At this point she was mortified. She had a very confused look. What was he trying to say?

“Given the evidence, we believe the deceased intended to commit suicide. However, we will perform an autopsy and confirm the cause of death to determine whether to launch a murder investigation, or to rule his death as a suicide.”

She was speechless. Everything was moving too fast. She turned around slowly and locked eyes with Raphael.

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