MICHAEL GETS INTERESTED
JANE came home early from work and met Brenda watching television in the sitting room. Her roommate still looked unkempt and was obviously not concentrating on the program going on. She was absent-minded and oblivious of her immediate environment.
This had been her condition since she came back from the hospital five days ago. Jane knew that there was very little she could do to bring her friend out of her depression, but at least she was going to try her best.
“I came back early so that the two of us can go out together. We can visit a fast food or any other interesting place,” she gently said after dropping her bag and sitting beside her friend.
Brenda slowly looked at her. “Welcome home, but I don’t want to go anywhere,” she said. “I hope you don’t mind. I just want to stay at home, that’s all.”
“But you have barely stepped outside since you came back from the hospital. Why don’t you take some time out? It could change your mood, you know.”
“I am worthless; I am just a piece of rag. What do I need to change my mood for? So that another man will see me, convince me that I am his all and all only for me to be dumped like a piece of rag? No, I just want to be left alone.”
Brenda’s situation was getting out of hand and Jane was beginning to think that she won’t be able to handle her this time.
She’d witnessed two of Brenda’s previous broken relationships, and sadly, unlike her, Brenda had always had plenty of male admirers but somehow seemed to always fall for the wrong set of guys. Jane had been brokenhearted before but the relationship had not been as deep and intense like all of Brenda’s three broken relationships and she had found it easy to get over it. Right now, she was in a serious relationship with her wedding date just by the corner.
“Oh, c’mon Honey,” she tried to soot; placing a hand on her friend’s left shoulder. “You’ll get over it…he’s not even as cool as Benjamin!”
“Yeah, Benjamin,” the other girl remembered. Her first serious love. “Yeah…that one was sure cute…and treated me like an angel!”
“You two had a very rosy relationship,” her friend chipped in, trying to strengthen her ploy. “So rosy that I found myself unconsciously getting envious of you!”
And they both laughed at this silly incident in their past.
“It was that bad…,” remembered Brenda. You almost hated me for no reason!”
“’Cuz not…,” defended Jane. “I just wanted the marriage to happen.”
“But it never did….” And Jane sighed. Another mood swing was about to envelope her friend.
Barely eight months into the relationship, Brenda had discovered that Benjamin had gotten another girl pregnant. Without any remorse, Benjamin had accepted responsibility for the baby, shoving Brenda away as if she never really mattered.
Jane had been there for her and made sure that she didn’t allow the breakup to discourage her, and luckily enough, Brenda was strong and gradually got over Benjamin. But the scar still remained, despite her promising herself to be more careful with men. A promise she quickly failed to keep for herself, really.
His name was Derek Hunter and he had come into Brenda’s life four months later.
An improved version of Benjamin, Derek was intelligent, smart and handsome. He was also very judicious and with little stress, he was able to convince Brenda to fall in love. Brenda was proud of Derek; he was a very confident man and made Brenda feel secured. Brenda trusted him and relied so much on his sense of judgment. He helped Brenda in living an organized life especially as regards her school activities.
The relationship lasted only seventeen months.
Derek worked with an oil company and was sent for three months training at a far away city. After a month, he stopped calling Brenda and his number was not available. No effort in trying to reach him worked, but she found out from his work place that he was perfectly alright. Therefore, she decided to wait for him to come back despite her worries.
And after three months, Derek had called her to tell her he would be back in a week’s time, without bothering to explain anything. Fair enough, he came back as soon as the three months was up, but sadly, he had turned into a different person!
He stopped calling, claiming to be very busy and asked Brenda not to come around unless he asked her to do so. He never did.
“What’re you thinking, girl?” Jane suddenly asked her, trying so hard to think up another tactic to get her friend out of the house.
“Do you know I decided to pay him a surprise visit when he came back after those three months?”
“Brenda, don’t do this to yourself,” admonished Jane. “I really don’t need to know what happened.”
“I found him at home with a lady who was obviously his lover!”
“Please, dear . . . don’t…”
“And he surprisingly walked me out, telling me he’ll see me and work things out! Again, he never did…. Can you believe that – that asshole?” Now, she was so close to tears, and Jane could only bring her close for a consoling hug. Of course, she could remember what happened next. Brenda had cried day and night after all this, going through self-torture. It was only with Jane’s help that she was able to get over it, although it was never easy.
She did get over it eventually.
And knowing how hard it was for Brenda before getting over that last breakup before Adam had come along, Jane was sure the present situation was beyond what she could handle. If possible, she knew she would need to get Brenda professional help. God, the girl was turning into a vegetable!
She left her in the sitting room and walked into the kitchen, for she was famished. From the look of the kitchen, Brenda had obviously not taken both her breakfast and lunch. Jane became angry. The girl had emaciated badly and would soon be sick if the situation was not properly handled!
She left the kitchen to confront her, but heard her cell phone ring and stopped in her tracks as Brenda answered.
“Hi, it’s me, Michael.”
“How are you?”
“I am fine; in fact, I am stronger than you can imagine….”
“That’s nice to hear. And how is your friend, Jane?”
“She is fine. She just came back from work.” Brenda looked up at her friend, who was observing her from the kitchen door.
“I just called to find out how you are doing and make sure that you have not fainted again,” bantered Michael.
“No I have not fainted and I promise you that I won’t faint again,” she replied, trying so hard to sound cheerful.
“Ok. One of these days I’ll come around and see how you are doing…. Perhaps we could go out together and get to know each other better?”
Brenda suddenly got angry. “Well, Mr. Michael, I appreciate your kindness, but I will appreciate it better if you forget about knowing us better. I believe you have better things to do; we are equally busy over here.”
There was silence.
“Well, that is okay. I just want to wish you all the best. I will call you some other time.”
The line went dead before she could reply. Of course, she wasn’t expecting him to do that; she’d thought he was going to insist. Well, it was all for the best. He’d better not call again. She casually dropped the phone and fixed her eyes on the television.
However, Jane continued to stare at her. It was like Brenda had already forgotten that she was in the house.
“Who was that on the phone?”
Brenda gave her a boring look. “Michael? He just called to say hi. You remember him? The guy….”
“Yes, I remember,” Jane cut in. “Should I bring you something to eat?”
“Look, Brenda….” She gently sat down beside her friend. “I don’t like the idea of you not eating anything. Look at you; do you want to starve yourself to death? You are getting so thin and unkempt!”
“I am not hungry, Jane. Besides who cares about how I look? I might as well look like a scarecrow, does it matter?”
“Yes it does. And you might as well get sick as well! Have you thought of that? Don’t you think I care about you?”
“Jane, I think it’s best if you stop worrying about me. I promise you that I will take care of myself, just let me handle this my way this time. I will eat when I feel like doing so, but for now, I don’t feel like eating and there is nothing I can do about it.”
“Then let’s just take a walk,” her friend persistently pleaded.
“No. Not now, maybe some other time. Right now, I don’t feel like doing anything.”
Some other time. This had been her language since the breakup with Adam. Jane helplessly left the room. She was seriously thinking about Brenda. The poor girl needed help but she could never help her with this attitude of ‘handling it her own way.’
She felt so frustrated that she could not find a way to help her friend. Something had to be done fast before the situation got out of hand. Brenda might turn suicidal. This thought made her more uncomfortable.
She could not do this alone; otherwise, her friend would continue to waste. She thought of alerting Brenda’s parents, but then thought better of it. It won’t be necessary to burden her poor parents, and Brenda would sure not be happy with her.
Her fiancé, Brad Stephens, had not been able to come around to visit Brenda since the breakup because of his tight work schedule. He had not bothered to call either, knowing it would be best if he spoke with her in person, although he made sure he got feedback on the poor girl’s situation from Jane. Brad liked Brenda. He thought that Brenda’s friendship with his fiancée was a very healthy thing for her and had always encouraged it. He was also fond of Brenda because Jane admired her a lot.
And of course Jane had spoken with her fiancé about Brenda’s condition three days ago. He had sympathetically advised her to contact Dr. Chris and allow the doctor to handle the situation. At the time, Jane had thought it a nice idea, but her friend had become overtly hostile ever since she got wind of the entire arrangement.
She came back to the living room, where Brenda still had her eyes fixed on the television.
“Brenda, look you…”
“Please don’t start again, Jane!” the other girl quickly cut in.
“You’ve refused to see Dr. Chris ever since I told you I met him some days back…why is that?”
“You sure know why, Jane!” snapped her friend, her exasperation very visible. “Don’t you ever give up? God!”
“No I won’t in your case!” affirmed Jane. “Dr. Chris said he’ll need to see you, and…”
“And I’ll never see him!”
Jane had never expected this vehement refusal from her friend and lost every will to continue the conversation. What could she do now? Brenda had refused to see anyone!
Yes, perhaps she should involve Michael. But wouldn’t she be taking matters too far? Her friend may not like his involvement, and besides; she was not sure of what Michael could do. Dr. Chris had informed her that he was a Social Psychologist. He should therefore know something about matters like this.
Michael had called twice since he left them at the hospital. Jane wasn’t sure if the young man had feelings for Brenda or not. It won’t be a good idea to bring him in if he had any intention of asking her out.
Maybe he was just concerned for the poor girl he rescued from the street. He had seemed genuinely interested in helping Brenda. Jane was confused.
She had sought for Brad’s advice earlier that morning, but Brad had neither encouraged nor discouraged her.
Perhaps she should talk to Michael first and beg him to offer professional help to her poor friend. Even if he intended dating Brenda, she could beg him to keep that aside for now and concentrate only on helping her get over her depression.
Jane did not know much about depression, but she had heard about people who had committed suicide or developed psychological problems due to their inability to cope with their depression.
She loved Brenda. They had gotten so close right from the first minute they’d interacted with each other in their first year at the university, and the last thing she wanted right then was for anything bad or worse than this to happen to her friend. She would never forgive herself.
“Suit yourself!” she finally said and walked away.
Brenda felt her outburst had been excessively harsh and sadly watched the only friend she had ever known for some time walk out of the room with an argument hanging over them both.
It did not have to be this way.
She cursed her travails for everything.
* * *
Michael dropped his cell phone and stared at it as if he was seeing it for the first time. Why was she so defensive? Did she actually turn his request to pay her a simple visit down?
Dr. Chris had said that she was suffering from heartbreak. The heartbreak must have gotten deep down into her brain. He wished he could see her and talk with her so that he can infer how depressed she was. She really sounded depressed on the phone.
Normally, ladies would want to be kind enough to people who helped them or at least pretend to like them just to show they are grateful, but Brenda had politely asked him not to come around. Well, he mustn’t draw conclusions just like that.
Oh God, he really wanted to see her again, but he didn’t want to visit her without her approval. He didn’t want to be a nuisance and make a fool of himself. How could he get the chance to get to know her better?
He was concerned for Brenda and would really like to know what actually happened. Why would somebody in his right senses hurt such a harmless-looking girl? He wished he could get the chance to know her better, take care of her, and probably start a relationship if things worked out well.
Surprisingly Michael had found himself thinking about her since the day he set his eyes on her. A feeling he had not felt for a long time. This was what he had been waiting for and he would do anything within his power to get her attention. The news of the heartbreak could be a good one for him, given his secondary intention, but first, he must get the details of everything that happened to her. Sadly, he was out of ideas on how he was going to get the information he wanted.
A sudden knock on his door startled him, and then he remembered that he was expecting a friend. Joel had called him thirty minutes ago and told him that he was already on his way to his house.
“The door is open.” He didn’t have the strength for security precautions.
Joel Jackson, a dark short but thick man walked into the sitting room. Joel had a smile, which usually contracted his entire face. A smile that always appeared genuine, but never sincere.
He got married six months ago, but was always calling on Michael concerning his wife and how best to handle her. According to him, she seemed to be a different woman from the woman he had proposed to before the wedding! She was becoming more and more difficult every day and the way Joel complained, Michael was not sure the marriage would last two years.
Joel worked in the bank. Of late, his work, combined with his marriage, gave him less time to hang out with his friends. Michael’s complaint about not seeing him often had led to the evening visit.
“Busy boy. Long time, it’s really nice seeing you.” Michael stood up from his seat to greet him. “How is the family?”
“Almighty Mike!” Joel hailed him as they both shook hands and hugged. “My wife is fine. In fact, she wanted to come with me but I found a way to convince her not to. She made me promise to come home early. She is beginning to miss me.” He walked straight to the fridge. “I hope you have some cold drinks in here.”
Joel opened the fridge and took a bottle of small stout. He was wearing sky blue jeans and a tight, long-sleeved red shirt. He looked very smart.
“I hope the relationship is improving?” Michael asked as Joel sat by his side.
“Well, like you advised me the last time I complained. I have learned to let some things go and make sacrifices for the sake of happiness and peace. My attention to little things is beginning to make her feel guilty. We are both adjusting, something we should have done earlier. I guess learning never stops.”
“Yes, with time everything will come to normalcy and you will begin to appreciate yourselves like you have never done. I guess I won’t have to keep you so long, for you must go home and stay with the wife.”
“No, don’t worry about that. I have already cooked up good reason to be out late. So how is Mr. Bachelor doing? I miss you, man,” Joel said with a wide smile. “Are you still waiting on God to send down an angel for you?”
“Mmmmmh…, I might have seen my angel. I met a lady recently but there is a little complication,” Michael thoughtfully replied.
“I will be right back.” Michael quickly stood up and rushed to the fridge. He came back to his seat with a bottle of stout. He picked up his remote control and pressed play. R. Kelly’s music softly wafted out of his Home Theater DVD. Then he quickly told Joel about Brenda. “In fact this girl is a Godsend. She was made for me.”
“This is a really complicated one. Depression from heartbreak is a very difficult one. But what can I say, you are the psychologist,” said Joel.
“I just spoke to her on the phone, just before you entered. She turned me down when I offered to pay her a visit.’
“Take it easy now. Why are you rushing her? She is doing what she should do as a woman.”
“I don’t think the problem is that I am rushing her. She is shutting out men from her life because of what she is going through. Joel, I have never stopped thinking about this girl since I saw her. I am almost going crazy.”
Joel laughed for some minutes. “This is serious. Mr. Bachelor needs a lady, I can’t believe this.”
“This is not a laughing matter.”
“Well, I think you should give her time, and then concentrate on gaining her confidence,” advised his friend.
“I just hope that it will not be too late. You can’t tell the next move of a heartbroken lady.” Michael was almost through with his beer.
“Give her some time, maybe a week, and then call her. You are the psychologist, you should know better,” maintained Joel.
“Not when you are clouded with emotions.” He stood up to get more beer. “I strongly believe I’ll come up with a solution. After all she is my Godsend. So what have been happening with you?” He changed the subject as he sat down and handed Joel a second bottle. They talked about a lot of issues for about an hour. Michael enjoyed Joel’s company a lot whenever he came visiting.
“I found out that I was expecting so much from my wife. I kept on blaming her and expecting her to be a perfect person. With your advice, I realized that I sometimes pushed her to the wall. I really appreciate you my friend,” said Joel. He was sipping his third bottle of stout. “She could actually be a nice woman, you know.”
“I thank God you are both learning to accommodate each other. Early marital problems are mostly caused by ambivalence couples face when they are trying to overcome marriage phobia.”
“I know you are going to make a good husband, I wish you all the best in your endeavor with Brenda.” Joel looked at his timepiece.
“Thinking of your wife?” Michael asked.
“Yes. I have to leave. I don’t want her to get worried. I have really spent so much time with you.”
Michael walked him to the door and came back into his living room. He felt lonely and decided to take another bottle of stout. Funny, the thought of the unknown Brenda was making him suddenly realize that he really needed a woman in his life. He also decided to watch a movie before going to bed.
As he was about to pick up his remote control, his cell phone rang. He answered the call.
“It’s me, Jane, remember me? Brenda’s friend.”
He became both alarmed and excited at the same time. Was something wrong with Brenda? “Of course I remember you. How are you and your friend?”
“I am okay but my friend is not. I am so concerned about her that is why I called you. She really needs help and I don’t know how to go about helping her. I was wondering if I could seek your assistance.”
“What’s the problem? Has she developed any complications?” Michael asked, wondering what the problem might be.
“I might be overreacting, Brenda just had heartbreak and she is taking it too hard. I am scared that she might do something stupid. I just don’t know what to do.”
“Do you need me to come over?” He didn’t care about what the time said.
“No, I was thinking about seeing you and explaining things to you first. Will you be free by tomorrow evening?”
“No problem. Do you know Baker’s Café?”
“Yes, somewhere in the middle of town?”
“Very good. Be there by 5:00 p.m. tomorrow or do you have anywhere else that might be convenient for you?”
“I think Baker’s Café is alright. But I will only be able to make it by 5:30 p.m.”
“No problem. Take your time. I will be waiting.” He dropped the phone. He didn’t know things had gotten this bad. He wished he could just reach out and help Brenda right away.
Well, this was what he had been waiting for. He would not relent in making good use of the opportunity that had just presented itself that evening.
He picked up his cell phone, switched off all electronic devices in his sitting room and went into his bedroom. He couldn’t wait for tomorrow. He must be careful in handling Jane; he must make her trust him.
That night he prayed that Brenda’s situation would not be beyond him and hoped that he would be able to help her.
He didn’t know when sleep took over his consciousness. Brenda was reaching out for him in his dreams.
* * *
Throughout the next day, he was again made to stand in the sun with nothing on, and he was very tired and famished when nightfall came.
Hence, when he was pushed into Sean’s cell afterwards, he could not even glance at his scared cellmate let alone look for the hidden camera the guards had threatened to put in the cell the day before. He just grabbed the plate of grub they’d placed on the floor for him and swallowed the food with his hands. Now a bit more oriented, he lay back on the floor and studied the other occupant of the cell.
“Hello, Sean…,” he nicely began.
“Hi, Nim-Nimrod…!” whispered the scared man.
“We meet again…my friend,” he added. “Just don’t faint on me this time!”
Sean was younger than Nimrod, and had a girly air about him. A behavior he had never seen as a bad omen all these years, until now, that is. It had led the older man to him in the first place, and he wasn’t ready for a repeat performance of that crazy experience they had together the other day.
“W-Why did they bring you here?” he suddenly wondered.
“So that we can be better acquainted, Sean,” was the sarcastic reply as Nimrod smacked his lips. “Don’t you like me?”
There was no reply to this.
“Okay…,” he resumed, crossing his legs, “let me tell you a bit about myself, Sean…that way you will get to know me better, aye?”
No word came from the other man’s mouth and this enraged him.
“Aye?” he bellowed.
“Aye!” let out an unnerved Sean, his knees buckling as he tried to stay standing.
“Good,” his new cellmate went on. “I am vindictive, Sean, and do you know the meaning of the word?”
“It means I am vengeful and spiteful, Sean…it means I’ll get you before I leave this place for what you did to me, Sean!”
“But…,” began the other man.
“But what? You made me go through hell for two days, man!” snapped Nimrod. “Or didn’t you hear I’m a psychotic killer? Didn’t any of the other prisoners tell you that? Don’t you know my reputation here? I don’t just love the act of killing; I also have a sadistic tendency which makes me inflict so much pain on my victims before killing them! I get so much pleasure from the sound of their painful cries, Sean, the way they plead and die slowly!”
“But…,” resumed the sweating Sean, “I never told them about us! You – you must believe me!”
“I don’t believe you!” snapped Nimrod, turning to face him. “You must know I’m a very organized person, Sean, and hardly makes any mistake in whatever I say, think or do! Therefore, I don’t believe you, ‘cuz I think it was you who spilled everything to the guards!”
He stood up and drew nearer the poor fellow cowering at the cell’s corner.
“Don’t think I’m abusing you, man, cuz you’ve seen nothing yet!” he coldly whispered and the latter swallowed hard, sweat freely pouring from his face. He was even beginning to whimper. “I grew up in an abusive home, Sean. I hated my father just as his own father hated him when he was alive! I had an elder sister who ran away from home before she was twenty, and you know why? Cuz my father took so much pleasure in beating us kids back then! Sadly, when my sister eloped with a stranger, he concentrated all his beating on me!”
Sean was now crying freely. “Oh, please…!” he begged as if for his life. He couldn’t stand the torture anymore, but his tormentor was drawing even closer.
“The old man will beat me for every little mistake and sometimes, he’ll purposely make me provoke him so that he can beat me again, leaving so many scares on my body in the process!” continued Nimrod as if he was deaf. “My mother was a drunk and never cared about what was going on at home. She would watch her husband almost strangling me to death, and then leave the house to come back late and very drunk!”
“I grew up becoming my father, Sean! At school, I exercised all I have learnt from him on my classmates. I will beat them and threaten them not to tell their teachers. And as you can tell, I was a very neat and organized young boy, and so was able to deceive the authorities into believing that I was a normal student!”
This assertion coming from a roommate was very frightening and Sean wondered whether it was time to start screaming for help, thinking better of this idea when Nimrod quizzically stared into his eyes as if reading his thoughts.
“Why…Why are you telling me all this?” he rather croaked.
“So that you’ll know about my first kill, Mon ami!” replied the older man in a lighter mood. “It happened like this…” He was so close to Sean’s face right now that the other man could smell his breath. “I made a mistake one day and one of my teachers discovered I was a psychotic bully. I was expelled from school and this shattered me. I became hopeless, without any plans for the future, and stayed at home wondering from one place to the other!
“But most importantly, Sean, I was also carefully planning on how I was going to get back at my teacher!” he added after some thought. “A year later, I found the opportunity I was waiting for and did not hesitate. I found my way into his house and stabbed him continuously until the stupid old man gave up the ghost! Then I was only seventeen years, Sean!”
“Jesus Christ!” involuntarily let out his victim. “Oh, sorry, sir!” he whimpered as an afterthought, and Nimrod slowly nodded, turning away from him but noticing the air he slowly let out afterwards.
“Do you know why I have successfully killed more than twelve people to date without being caught, Sean?”
“Because I love my freedom, Sean, and always took time to plan my actions!” he snapped, turning back to a drained Sean. “I was really enjoying my life before finding myself in prison, Sean, and now I need a girl!”
“You know there’s a camera in here now…!” began the other prisoner with effort. “They will come if you start!”
“They will do no such thing…they’re guards – they always sleep while on night duty!”
“They will come if I scream!”
“Then I will kill you before they get here!”
The other froze with unreasonable fright. He was so scared that his knees began to shake again and his body started going through quivering spasms.
Nimrod smiled at this and suddenly erupted into wild laughter. “Jeez, don’t be afraid before your time, my friend. I don’t think I’ll need you now…no – not yet!” he tried to allay, albeit with sarcastic venom. “Right now I need to know how to get out of this joint…got an unfinished business with a fool out there in the free world!”
“Who…What – How?” stammered Sean, trying to steady his shaking hands.
“Once I leave this place, I must get back at the young man who made them get me!” his cellmate coldly replied. “He must die, and not only die, but die slowly and painfully! I’ll teach the busy body fellow how to mind his own business!”
The other man was quiet. He didn’t know what else to say. Surely the guy must know that the camera was switched on and rolling?
Nimrod got up and went to the prison bars. He held unto these and his anger rose a notch. “I wish I can squeeze his neck like these bars right now! Squeeze the life out of him! Make him lose speech…prevent words from coming out of his mouth again!”
“I don’t care!” he snapped, facing his cellmate once again. “Now, pull down and bend over!”