Alvin’s eyes on me were so spellbound and engrossed more than anything else. Eman had a you-look-quite-gorgeous face that was tweaked and interfused with considerable grimacing and scowling. I didn’t get it. Why couldn’t he just for a concise flash show me some gentleness and good manners? What wrong had I precisely done to him? It was all so baffling and maddening. I had a sneaky sensation that he detested me logically and impetuously. Most possibly. Either case, I was here with Alvin whether he liked it or not and I was getting some photos carried through in spite of whatever despicable thing he contemplated and held relating to me.
The photo shoot with Alvin was just cool and remarkable. It was one of my best moments ever. Yes, even making me bear in mind that long-ago moment when I had posed with Alex at Sam’s Lobelia for grand and breathtaking photos. Oh yeah…that sort and like. Shit! How come Alvin was reminding me of Alex…my Alex…well for now he was not here and instead I was with him…Alvin.
I stirred myself this way and that other, smiling, or staying calm and straight-faced, all in accordance with what he was directing me to act. If he said smile, I grinned gladly and tolerably. If he said, give me a cool, calm and collected face, baby, with no any form of smile or crinkle or sensation, I did what he said. Yes, he spoke out that word to me. Baby. And it made me hoot and laugh quietly deep inside.
“Great so far,” he muttered. “This is all hard to believe and fantastic.”
We had another second round of photos. No, not in the colonnade. But in the study this time. I dressed efficiently and professionally. Yes, like I was a work-going woman or even an entrepreneur herself. I loved my outfit. An unadorned and straightforward gray skirt suit with a white shirt and no tie preset on. My shoes were black and unblemished. I lodged down on his kingly-like chair with much ease and then looked directly at him and Eman behind. He smiled at me cheerfully and thoughtfully, winking even. I winked back agreeably with a huge and hospitable grin plastered on my face. Then he began taking the photos.
“Move right. Spinning in your chair that is. I want you to give me your best ever smile from sideways, with your long curly hair arranged well and wonderfully down your shoulders. Is that okay with you, baby?”
“I will give it my best try, Alvin.”
I did as I was instructed to. Who-oa-h! This was just unbelievable. I twisted myself along with the chair littly, making it sway and spin a little bit with a moderate croaking-like noise, and then I gawked straight at him but in a sideways pose, and with that completed, I shot him my best ever smile, baring my teeth and even imagining them polished and glinting in the face of his eyes. Were they polished and glassy-like-shining actually? By the way, my long and now properly curled hair was streaming and cascading down my shoulders in a gentle-like but nice-looking way. Yeah. Beautifully even.
Captcha! Captcha! And captcha again! He was done; he surveyed the photos he had taken, bedazzled and shocked with his very own achievement. His lips parted bit by bit like he had caught abrupt glimpse of a very sweet lollipop that he was just about to throw into his mouth and lick it nicely and at his own relaxed pace.
The third round of photos was in one of his secretive lounging rooms. All huge and well-furnished. In this one, all the fittings and fixtures were white. Purely and comprehensively white. I loved white, but it was by no means my much loved color.
“It is to some extent truly freezing in here although it is totally and altogether painted white,” I passed comment after we had stepped into the room. Yes. There was a certain chilliness and austerity to it that sank its teeth and gnawed deep into my flesh. And taking into account that I was wearing just a stretched white dress with high-reaching slits that ended somewhere up my thighs, it was like torment itself.
Alvin sighed, frowning lightly. “I am sorry about that. But whoever will look at your photos will not be able to know that they were shot in this chilly and bleak-seeming room of mine. Which is why we must keep on with this, Sophia. In any case, we will be speedy and short-lived, I give my word.”
“Let’s hope so.”
“Now lie down on the couch, will you? Yes, just like that. Listen, I want you to hurl one hand behind you and place the elbow of your other hand right there in front of you. Exactly like that, baby. Raise up your chin and head all in all and stare up towards me mischievously and alluringly. Good. I want you to tear open your lips a bit as if you are about to open your mouth and say something. Excellent, baby. Now concentrate and here I come.”
Captcha! Captcha! And captcha again. Who-o-wie! This was sweet and loveable. I liked it so very much. You might be wondering if the light from the camera was not strong and dazzling enough to blind me and make me close my eyes. It wasn’t. I was able to stand and put up with it.
Alvin examined the photos of his exertion and effort. They were glorious. I didn’t see them though. I purely guessed that from the amazing and spellbound way he looked at them. My, my. I was in for a kick and big bombshell, wasn’t I? Most definitely.
“Are we done yet?” I asked while I unstirred from where I was lying down, pained but enjoying the sting itself. This was sweet affliction indeed.
“Not so soon. Now we have our last round left to set on. The fourth one that is. I want you to be totally unclothed and undressed this time. I will be taking snapshots of you in the forest.”
“I am just joking. But for this one, you don’t have to be completely dressed. Just a bit covering will do with some decency and fashion to it.”
“That will be no trouble, Mr. Morgan. My apology, Alvin.”
For that, I was glowered brusquely and slapped lightly and kindly on my back. Not my bottom for goodness’ sake. My back I do mean. B—a—c—k . Not backside like you might be enticed to assume.
It was sunny and sparkling outside. I loved the sun. I could bask in it for ages never-ending and infinite. I loved everything sunlit and light-related. I stood on a mammoth rock, dressed in nothing but brief shorts that were fashioned after a bikini and a modish and navel-uncovering top. On top of this, I had a smooth-material and frivolously colored cloth wrapped about myself cautiously and properly. I had made all these clothing myself. And my feet were nothing but bare and exposed.
Of course, I hadn’t come all the way here on nude and unclothed feet. It was Alvin himself who had carried and borne me up on his back. My, my. I had mistook and undervalued him. He was stronger. Stronger like an authentic gentleman was supposed to be. Stronger like Alex was. Oh…Alex. For now, he had to be packed away from my recollection and musing, right? Surely.
I sighed, breathing out unreservedly and serenely. I don’t know. I was just starting to like Alvin. Not as in falling in love with him. Alex was the one who I had fallen in love with hard and excruciatingly fast that first time I met him. Sh*t! I had to leave the boy alone just for this while, didn’t I? Of course I had to. Geez!
“Eman, you will be the one to take photos of Sophia this time. Let’s see what you can do. Here is my camera. Go on and captcha-captch her,” Alvin told him, and he submissively took the camera and walked to site himself in front of me. Oh my…that hard and aloof look of his toward me. When was he ever going to give up being discourteous and boorish? I was starting to find his behavior too nasty and insufferable. If it was not for Alvin here and my now-on-her-knees clothes-designing calling, I would have given up on him and acted callously and uncaring too.
“Sit down, will you please?” Eman spoke. His voice was so deep and coarse-sounding at the same time. Who knew? Maybe he was that coarse and uneven at all the times. And uneven people fanned the flames of my dislike consistently. Damn him for his aloofness toward me!
I did like I had been told to. I sat down with my hands set behind me and my feet located well before me.
Captcha! Captcha! Captcha!
“Look down south away from me. I want you to face that side as well and carry a meditative and abstemious-like look on your face.”
It was that uncomplicated to do.
Captcha! Captcha! Captcha! Captcha!
Eman moved the other side to review and study my positioning before he proceeded on with his captcha-captcharing thing.
Captcha! Captcha! Captcha!
“Lie flat, will you, with your face stayed skyward properly well and your cloth spread and unfurled about you dexterously. I will take the succeeding photos of you from that close-by tree. When I tell you to get set and ready, be iced up still and cheery-looking. Is that clear?”
“It is, Eman.”
“Thank you.” He went and climbed the nearby tree and it was from its towering heights that he located his camera at me and took rapid and soundless photos of me from high up there. I didn’t notice the camera flaring or shining. Perhaps it was the being of the more intense sunshine that overpowered and outdid its fragile light. Perhaps.
At long last, he was through and finished with his assignment. He returned the camera to his boss for inspection and review of the photos he had captured. I stood up and went to have a look at them myself. They were pretty and to my liking.
“Mission accomplished,” Alvin said to me.
I rose an eyebrow at him. “Don’t you think they will be more than is necessary?”
“Out of these, I will have Chantal decide on the best looking five. They are what will be attached to your application and that other piece of paperwork you signed as well.”
“Alvin, I want to thank you so much for all this that you are doing for me. I value it all so very much.”
He smiled at me mildly and benevolently, running his tender finger across my cheek for one fleeting swift second. “It is my pleasure, Sophia. Would you like to take a leisurely walk with me out here in the forest. Just the two of us.”
“It would be my heartfelt pleasure as well.”
He looked at Eman instantly. “I will find you elsewhere. We need to be alone for now.”
Bowing his head down reverently, Eman turned away and took his leave away from us.
I breathed out, watching the broad-shouldered and well-built Eman drop out of sight. His walk and stride itself was so elegant and well-mannered. It was as though it was not that a-moment-ago loutish and standoffish him. What was it with him and his mood swings? Or were they mood swings in reality? Whatever.
Alvin placed his hand quietly on my arm and began, “You have not told me much about this boyfriend of yours, Alex, have you? I would like to know how deeply and truly you love each other.”
Oh no. We didn’t have to talk about Alex, or did we? No way. I was just not happy making him the subject matter of our tête-à-tête right now. But after all the good things that Alvin had done to me, I felt so indebted to him that I would do just about anything to make his day and satisfy him. Even if it meant ruining my own contentment and self-interest.
“Alex and I only just met. I don’t think we love each other that very much, but we do love each other fairly well in any case.”
“How long have you two been together till this date?”
“For not more than a month, I believe.”
“He is that much handsome, right?”
“Of course, he is. Why else would I be with him? I am just joking. But yes, he is passably and reasonably good-looking.”
“I wish I was handsome like he is.”
“Why do you say that? You are very handsome even right now, Alvin.”
“You think so?”
“I surely do.”
“If I was, how come I am always unfortunate when it comes to falling in love. I am even now afraid to date any girl out there. All my precedent girlfriends, they were not that really into me but were only after my capital and standing. I felt so betrayed whenever I discovered that. It was like I was deceiving myself. No woman will ever really love me. What they only run after are my belongings and great influence. That is it and nothing more.”
“I am so sorry about all that. But they were all thoughtless and inconsiderate. Wealth and power will never prevail over true love. Love is fully based on the feelings inside the heart and not on worldly things. Maybe you were looking in erroneous places for love. Were these women dirt-poor and not people of your own level and rank? I mean you are very first-class. People of my class aren’t entitled that much to hang about with you and form such ceaseless bonds and relationships.”
“No. I am not any first-class, Sophia. I just happened to be born to a very well-off man and family and that’s all.”
“Facts are facts, Alvin, whether you agree with them or not. You are not like me or anybody commonplace who walks the busy streets out there. Your life and mine are very dissimilar. They may never be the same. We have our differences and dissimilarities and…you know what I am talking about here, don’t you?”
“Is this about us or my past fiancées?”
“My apology. This shouldn’t concern me at all…I don’t know how I exactly came to involve myself in this. I just don’t know how.”
“What kind of opinion would you give me, Sophia?”
“Look for someone your own rank and division. That’s the only solution. I mean, someone as rich and influential as you are would never get hitched to you out of greed and insatiability. I mean you will be both rich, appreciated and renowned…it will be a very different story, I think.”
“I don’t imagine so myself.”
“Yes, I don’t.”
Alvin looked at me in silence and gravely, seeming like he wanted to make known something to me and doubting himself whether he should let it out to me at the same time. What could be going in that unseen mind of his? What was it that he wanted to let slip to me? Or didn’t he trust me that much? Didn’t he?
Finally, he said, “We should go back home, I think.”
“Are you positive about it?”
“Yes. I need to lie down a little bit. I scarcely had any sleep last night. Plus I will be flying to town this afternoon for a very chief meeting. Let us go back please.”
Alvin was not being truthful. That is what I felt. There was more to everything that he was just not saying out to me. Could he be in love with me? Hang there, Sophia please, will you? Since when have you been entertaining such ridiculousness and inanity? Think. Please. You said it out yourself. Alvin and you belong to very unlike worlds and he would never have an eye for a pitiable girl like you. Whatever. It was not like I wanted him to look at me in that kind of way. I only hoped that my emergence in his life hadn’t sparked any passion and craze on his part.
My conscious ridiculed and jeered at me. You? An obsession and craze to Alvin? Be of balanced mind, Sophia, will you, my silly girl?
I frowned. To hell with everything!!
Back to the house in the heart of the forest, while Chantal was cooking in the kitchen, I went to ask her, “Would you be maddened if I asked you something?”
She looked at me evenly and with a smile. “No, my girl. You can ask me anything that you feel like. Anything at all.”
“It is about Eman.”
“Is he always that uncivil and unsociable. Ever since I first met him, that was what he all the time manifests toward me. Nastiness and aloofness. It makes me wonder if I keep on doing something that annoys and offends him. I just don’t know.”
“You are right on that one.”
“You mean you have noticed the same too?”
“That was how he acted toward me when I first began working for Mr. Morgan. He stopped being that coldly to me with the trailing off of time. But it did take that long indeed.”
“Signifying that it is typical of him to behave that way toward me, right?”
“Sure. If I were in your shoes, I would not take awareness of him and instead focus on what really matters in my life. Turn a blind eye to his aloofness. It will be all up to him to either patch up things with you or not to. That is what I did. And it worked absolutely well.”
“I am thankful for your advice, Chantal. That is what I will do from now on.”
I was about to leave the kitchen when she stopped me. “One more thing, Sophia. I have something to thrash out the vibe with you in relation to something. Something essential for sure.”
I turned around to her bit by bit and unhurriedly. “I am available for any type of chit-chat.”
“Haven’t you noticed anything unusual with Alvin? I mean, okay, since you are new in this house and don’t know him fairly well, I will instead pose it this way: Don’t you find anything suspicious with his behavior? Anything at all?”
“Anything like what?”
“Come on. Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed anything, my darling?”
“Come sit with me here, will you please?”
I was compliant.
“Alvin…Alvin is…he is a good and a kind man all in all. Very welcoming indeed. All those girls he has dated don’t know about the goodly qualities to be esteemed and prized inside him. Yes, at times he can be uncompromisingly sassy and livid and vicious…my boy is this short-tempered.”
That might have explained why he had had us dispose of our stroll so hastily and rashly. He had been disgruntled with what I had had to say.
“If you really open your eyes with all your heart, you will see all these good and remarkable things that he is deep inside. And you will as well doubtlessly and helplessly fall in love with him.”
“Hang there, Chantal, will you? What are you trying to say with all of this?”
She did not say a word.
“I doubtlessly and helplessly falling in love with Alvin? I thought that I could trust you, you know?”
“Calm yourself down, Sophia please, will you?”
“How can I when you are saying all these strange and outlandish things? Tell me something. Do you want me to fall in love with him? Is that what you truly and really want to see happening?” At that point in time, out of resentment and astonishment and shock, I had irately stood up from where I was sitted to glare and scowl at her.
She answered coolly, “Yes, Sophia, I want you to fall in love with my boy.”
“Your boy? Stop playing mother to him, will you please? You do nothing but betray him and stab him behind his back.”
“Alvin is my real son. That is just the horrible and petrifying truth. I have hidden it from him and everyone else all these long years. I am his actual mother.”
“That is a lie, right? You are so greedy and ambitious, aren’t you?”
“I had a DNA surreptitiously carried out. I can show you the results of it if you like. Alvin is my son. My very own son even though he knows it not. I am the one who gave birth to him. For six weeks I was carrying him in my womb down there. I had to leave him in the hands of that nasty Elisa Marlene Morgan. Wife to the late Stanley Morgan, May His Soul Rest In Peace. She is also deceased at this point in time.”
I didn’t know what to precisely and in particular say.
“Elisa thought that she was infertile. So she had me undergo an artificial insemination procedure where semen from her husband was taken and slotted deep into my womb. That way, I fell pregnant but my pregnancy did not stay long enough with me. A month later, they operated on me again to take out my fetus and they went on to place it in her womb instead. That was how she became pregnant with my child, now hers, and she what’s more went on to conceive well and without any difficulty. As for Alvin’s young sister, Adelaide, Elisa fell pregnant with her normally and smugly and with an unfading smile. Adelaide is her real daughter. And Alvin is my real son.”
Was that possible? What was it that modern science could not do save for resurrecting the dead to life and creating unique and imaginative life itself? Of course, that which science could probably do, God could do far much better and excellently. That which science could not do, He was still able to do far-off well and astoundingly.
“Alvin is your son?” My voice echoed feebly and frailly.
Chantal nodded tearfully. “He certainly is.”
My God. What was all this that was happening? What precisely?
“Why don’t you tell him the truth then? Don’t you think you have concealed it from him for so long now?”
“I am scared of what his reaction to that will be; I am afraid that it might even kill him too fast.”
“What do you mean by saying it might even kill him too fast? Tell me please.”
“Ever since Alvin was born, he was afflicted with a very grave and uncommon illness. It is the only one of its kind so far. Very few people are tainted by it and they all don’t live that any longer. Schweimman’s infection. Haven’t you ever heard about it?”
“No, I have not. This is very novel to me.”
“It is an illness that is at least six hundred years old. Yes, it is that aged. It began with Wilfred Schweimman who was born and bred in olden-world Germany. It was not a unified Germany back then. The illness has only one therapy accessible. Contentment and joy inexpressible. Without true and genuine cheerfulness, the patient will become more and more depressed and disheartened until he finally goes fully mad to spot-on and instantaneous death. That insanity stage is the worst. Once one reaches that stage, he has only a few days left to live.
“That is the disease that is living inside my son, Sophia. I want you to help me out. Together we can make life exhilarating and enjoyable for him like it was before. His doctor tells me that he is not in good shape and health altogether. He hardly ever does sleep at night and he is almost all the times heart-rent and cheerless. All I care for is his wellbeing and shape. Nothing else. Not his wealth, not his high position, not anything that he owns under his name. Will you help me out? I beg you please.”
“You are the only one who can alter and transform his life all over again. My son is in love with you, Sophia.”
What? That could not be true, right? Alvin was not in love with me…no, he was not. I became somewhat ill-at-ease and worried. This was all unreal. Probably. Alvin was not in love with me. No, he was not. He was not!