Written by Jennifer Azubuike

To enjoy this story, start from episode 1

What do you think her problem is?” Prince asked, looking worried. “I mean she acts happy when I’m around but I know she’s not. I make sure she gets all she needs. What could be making her so unhappy? Or do you think she doesn’t love me anymore?”

“You worry too much son.” His mother poured him some water. “It is a period of transition in her life and that is expected to come with some anxiety, normally.”

What Prince did not tell his mother was that Martha requested money from one of his accounts that she had access to but had never used. The request was bizarre because he makes sure her personal account is well funded each month. At first, he tried to ignore the unusual request until he checked her account and found it zeroed out. Although he had immediately ordered for it to be well funded again, the unusual rapid financial activities tugged at his heart regardless of how hard he tried to excuse them.

He sighed resoundingly. “If you say so mom, could you please talk to her? I don’t mind taking off from work to be beside her if that will help.”

“I think so too, son. Your wedding is so close. I think it’s time to sign off to your V.P. Martha would certainly appreciate that.” 

But Martha didn’t. She, in fact, opposed the idea of Prince signing off for his personal leave early. She needed more time to clean up her mess. It is now two weeks before the wedding. Her blackmailer has demanded money from her for four consecutive weeks. The constant struggles to keep this blackmailer shut and still maintain a normal appearance drained sanity from Martha. She decided to see Jane.

Unfortunately, when she arrived at the country house of her longtime friend, she was not home. Jane as a professional singer was frequently on the move. Even though she did not quite make it as a solo singer, she found success as a backup singer for some popular and upcoming artists. Martha assumed Jane would be in Los Angeles as most of her activities go on there. She knew her friend maintained her country house in the suburbs because she likes to return to peace and quiet after the hustle and bustle in L.A.

On the front porch of the house, Martha sat down and cried. There and then she decided to end this menace. Her past is calling and for one last time she will answer and clean it up for good.

She went home and readied for her usual but unknown caller. At about 12 noon the next day he called again. Martha offered him a deal. She was going to give him three times the amount he was requesting on the condition that he must collect the money in person.

“Why?” He asked suspiciously. 

“Because I want you to hand me the rest of the tapes you have.”

Martha could hear him smile. He must have called her ‘stupid’ in his thoughts as he knew that those videos were on the internet and could not be destroyed like you would destroy a tape.

“Deal!” he said. “I will tell you where and when to meet me tonight.” He said and ended the call.

“No problem!” Martha murmured to herself and pulled a pistol from her drawer, checked it for bullets and carefully put it in her handbag.

*            *            *

“We did not legally adopt Martha.” The elderly woman rocked in her wooden seat gently as she spoke. “My husband met her on one of our properties a long time ago. She wanted to rent an apartment but she was too young to legally sign any of the papers so he declined. Rather, my husband and I offered her a room at our place as long as she agreed to work the yard and do some chores. She accepted. Overtime, however, we grew fond of her and she became the daughter we never had.”

Prince rose to his feet and paced back and forth thoughtfully. 

“Sit down David. You make me anxious when you pace.”

He apologized and sat back down. “I would never have guessed she is not your daughter.”

Mrs. Schrager shrugged “Like I said, my husband and I are very fond of her. Since you know her, I bet you’ll know why. She is humble, intelligent and hardworking; that is to name a few. We fell in love with young Rose and loved her like our own.”

“Rose. Why do you call her Rose?”

“It’s her name, silly! Mrs. Schrager laughed. “I choose to call her by her middle name because, to me, she’s as beautiful as it.”

“You said she came to you when she was about 15 years old. Did you consider reporting her presence in your home to authorities? Just in case she was a missing person.”

“Correction, she was about sixteen and no, we didn’t consider her to be in any sort of danger. Remember, she came to us looking to rent a place, and she behaved so mature that I always thought of her as a girl who just wanted to start up her own life away from home.”

Do you know anything about her background?”

“She never spoke much about who she was or where she’s from? When I discovered she emotionally withdraws every time we try to ask, I discouraged my husband from asking. But, you are her fiancé. I would expect you to know something. You never asked?”

Prince shifted uncomfortably. “No, I always thought she was your daughter.”

Mrs. Schrager shook her head and muttered something under her breath. After a long pause she looked up at Prince. “It’s not too late, I guess. You can still ask questions if you need to know.”

“Thanks. I will take my leave now.”

“Send my regards to your mother, David.”

“I will. Bye.”

As soon as Prince left Mrs. Schrager’s, his phone rang. It was his personal assistant calling. 

“Hey, what’s up? Did you find anything?”

“Yeah. She will be meeting up with someone tonight. I couldn’t identify the other party but I am positive the meeting is intended to be very private.”

“Good, do you have any detail on location and time?”

“Time, yes, location? Not quite. She will have to be followed for that one.”

“Text me the details you have and meet me at Easton street Dunkin’s right away.”

* * *

“Thank you for calling the Spring of Life Center. How can I help you?” A young female voice asked at the other end.

“Hi, I was referred for counseling. Do you offer such?”

“Yes, this is a rehabilitation center but we offer counseling services as well. What can I do for you?” 

Mr. Manuel explained his situation.

“Okay, I will schedule your daughter an appointment with our psychologist?”

“Psychologist? Did you hear what I said? She’s not sick.”

“I understand but our psychologist is trained to handle counseling for juveniles in her situation. Trust me; it will be most appropriate for your daughter.”

“Alright, go ahead and schedule.”

“Unfortunately sir, our closest open date is in a month’s time. The best fit psychologist for your daughter is on vacation.”

“What? She needs to go back to school. We can’t wait that long.”

“We could open a case file for her so she can get paperwork to prove she’s in counseling and be able to return to school but that will have to be with the strict condition that she will show up for every session.”

“That won’t be a problem. I will drive her to every session by myself.”

“Okay, I will ask you some questions to help me set up an account for her. Then you can bring her in tomorrow to sign and collect her paperwork, okay?”


*            *            *

Prince followed the cab at a good distance as it made its way to the riverside of the neighboring town. It stopped in front of a lonely wooded area. Prince stopped too and turned off his headlights. Under the light provided by a road lamp, he watched Martha climb down from the cab. He could see she wore a long black dress with a veil over her head. Watching her, he felt very conflicted about the woman he loved, but he fought back his emotions to stay focused. 

“I will follow her.” He whispered to his friend.

“Are you sure? I could ask my men to sweep in instead.”

“No, not yet but you can have them ready. I need to find out what is going on for myself. I will leave my phone on so you can listen.” 

Prince attached his cellphone to his belt as planned. But just one look at him, his friend knew he was afraid. He immediately made arrangements as soon as Prince left and moved his men into the wooded area. He wasn’t willing to take chances on Prince’s life.

See last episode of CHOICES here

See previous posts here.

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