Three Hours Earlier
Ivy arrived at the wedding venue earlier to put things together. Overindulgence and quintessence was the trademark of the Wrights family and all designers had assembled to give the event the explicit venue it deserved.
Walking to and fro to ensure that everything was up to the Wrights standard, the corner of Ivy's eyes caught a familiar figure. From her model figure, poise and etiquette, it surpassed no other than Ashley, who was supposed to be with her bridesmaids.
Instead, she was responding to the flirtatious advances of Richard Wood, the eldest son of the Woods family in the corridor of her hotel room. The wedding was being held in the auditorium of the Wrights luxury hotel in M City.
At first, Ivy took no interest but when Richard Woods kissed her sharply on the lips, she couldn't hold it anymore. She had seen them a couple of times throughout the wedding preparations but now, she felt even more unsettled.
Her curiosity and concern for her son didn't allow her the courtesy to ignore them when they entered the room assigned to Ashley together, thereby standing by the door with her ear glued to it,
Richard: "Listen to me Ashley, just do as I've said. Break the news fifteen minutes to the wedding."
Ashley: "What's the use? We love each other. Let's just elope."
Richard: "As the heir of the Woods fortune, I can't do that. I love you and we will get married next week. Just don't break the news now. It would ruin everything."
Ashley: "What do you have in mind?"
Richard: "If you break the news now, he will find another bride. Every woman loves him so it won't be hard."
Ashley: "Isn't it good? Whoever he marries shouldn't concern us right?"
Richard: "Look, I will explain everything later but you just have to do as I say. Trust me right?"
Ivy wasn't a fool. She knew what was going to happen. She left the venue in search of her old friend, whom she hadn't touched base with for quite some time now. She had a daughter who was homely and wise. Knowing the girl was worthy of her trust, she was willing to put in a bargain. The girl was the kind she needed for her son. She was different and could transform him because, she won't fall for his charm.
Sadly, the girl she had eyes on wasn't her friend's biological daughter and had been subjected to so much ill-treatment. Even her friend wanted to give one of her daughters instead but Ivy's instincts were strong. She insisted on the girl she had eyes on. She had seen her briefly when she was sent to pick a cheque on behalf of the family some years back.
She didn't have a flaunting beauty but was respectable and smart from how she asked and answered questions thrown at her. Since Ivy had refused her friend's daughters, her friend turned bitter and insisted that she didn't know the whereabouts of her step-daughter, Abigail.
Ivy made a few enquiries with the help of her bodyguards and soon found out that Abigail loved gardening and went to the field that had the largest garden in search of her, met with shock.
In the garden, Abigail sat in the grass with her hair unkempt, her clothes tattered. On her thighs laid the head of a man who was old enough to be her father. Indeed he was. He looked sick and could hardly move his limbs.
Drops of tears fell on the man's face from Abigail's eyes, "you will be fine, daddy. I will become the best florist in M city. I will get enough money for your treatment and I will make sure that woman and her daughters pay for what they did to you," she kept repeating to her father. It was hard to tell whether or not he even heard her at all. His eyes were closed and there was no movement around him, just as he spoke no words.
Abigail kept repeating the same thing over and over again like she was in a trance. She didn't even notice that she had company. Ivy could tell that her friend wasn't who she thought she was, judging by Abigail's appearance. The last time she saw her, she was neat and presentable but it didn't change her intention to give her an offer she couldn't resist.
Startled from her trance by a gentle nudge on her shoulder, Abigail panicked upon seeing a sophisticated woman with two men, who were formally dressed. Such people were usually cruel like her stepmother but this woman carried a heartwarming smile, which made her comfortable but the words that came from her mouth, made her rather annoyed. "I can make all your dreams come to pass on one condition," Ivy voiced out, sitting in the grass beside Abigail without her permission. She didn't have a lot of time and didn't mince words. The wedding was to be in the next two hours.
"Who are you and what are you talking about?" Abigail tried to sound courageous but hunger had made her voice timid. She had been in the garden with her father for three days, just so her stepmother wouldn't get the chance to finish him off. They were starving.
"Who I am doesn't matter but I can ensure your father gets all the treatment he needs. I will fly him to Z country and give him a good life." Z country was known to possess the best medical facilities so if her father was going to be sent there, then Abigail had hope.
Whereas, it was still hard for her to trust a stranger. Everyone her father trusted turned against him. How could she trust this woman? Somehow, she looked familiar but maybe, starvation had reduced the content of energy in her brain, preventing it from processing the information as fast as it should.
"Thank you but I can't accept your offer. I don't want to be indebted to anyone," she casually responded in a raspy voice, her silent tears unstoppable. Not only did Abigail not trust her but she feared debt. Debt was what reduced her family to nothing. Her stepmother's incessant spending caused his father to borrow so much. When no one would lend to him anymore, she spiked his drinks and food so many times to make him sign documents that gave her the right to sell off his assets to continue with her lavish life.
Abigail was tossed here and there. She tried to fight for her father but the only ones she could stand up to were her stepsisters. Her stepmother was too strong for her.
She had swapped the spiked drinks a lot of times. If not, her father would have been dead by now. "You won't be indebted because I need a favour that only you can give. So, let's just say that taking care of your father will be your payment for the favour I'm going to ask you," she elaborated but Abigail wasn't dumb. The elite in M city were known to take advantage of the poor and Abigail wasn't going to fall for it.
What favour could she give a woman as wealthy as the one before her? What did she have except ceaseless tears? "How?" She asked with tear-filled eyes, looking at the woman in the eyes for the first time, her appearance becoming more and more familiar.
"Marry my son,'' the woman announced. Abigail froze stupefied. This woman must be crazy asking a girl like her to marry her son. But marriage wasn't in her plans at the moment. It wasn't even close.
"Who is your son and who are you?" She asked, feeling her father's temperature that had begun rising again. She began rubbing some herbs on his forehead to reduce the heat emitted. The smell of the herb was nauseating but Ivy endured it. In M city, most people who couldn't afford the health facilities and didn't have insurance relied on herbs.
"I'm Ivy Wrights, the mother of Tony Wrights," Ivy proclaimed. Abigail felt washed by snow. News about Tony Wright was always on the lips of the media as the sexiest playboy with powerful business ethics and the heir of the Wright family fortune. Not only that, he was getting married today. Her stepsisters fussed over it a week ago when she was in her father's mansion. It was the only thing her stepmother hadn't sold in addition to a few cars.
"Ahhh, that isn't possible. He has a finance and equally every woman's man. A marriage to someone like him would mean hell for me. I'm sorry but I can't," She instantly rejected, just as Ivy expected. Girls in M City would fall for the opportunity but not Abigail. Not even when it would save her father's life.
"What about your father? He needs immediate treatment. Where will you keep him while you work? It would take years to reach that wonderful dream of yours but he won't be able to see any of it," Ivy pressed a sour button. She didn't mean to but the only person dear to Abigail was her father and that was Ivy's only chance. Indeed, Abigail began to see things differently. What would be the essence of making it in future if her father wouldn't be able to see any of it? Aside from that, the herbs weren't improving his condition and he needed urgent medical attention.
"What about your son's fiance? Where would she be?" A thirst for revenge gave Abigail the strength to swallow and digest what was thrown at her. She couldn't watch her father die for her stepmother and sisters to continue living all high and mighty. They had to pay for what they did to her father. If a contract marriage would allow her to get revenge, then she was going to take it.
"Leave that to me and just do as I say," Ivy assured her. She wasn't sure if Ashley was really going to leave her son but she felt a need for a backup. If the wedding with Ashley went unhindered, she would still take care of Abigail's father and give her her needed freedom.
"For how long am I going to marry your son?" Abigail asked. She needed to plan her life and she had to know for how long she was going to pretend to be married to Tony but Ivy's subtle response ripped her heart, she felt her breath cease.
"Till death my dear."
Abigail didn't want to spend the rest of her life in a loveless marriage, having her life, dreams and aspirations taken away. It wasn't desirable. But was she going to watch her father die, No? If Ivy needed her, then she must be smart enough to put up a comfortable bargain. "Then I can't," she said firmly, her heart rate increasing with the hope that Ivy would adjust the terms of the marriage.
Unfortunately, she wasn't the only one playing smart. Ivy was doing so too. The wrights family had their generational marital terms, which could never be changed. Divorce was forbidden but seeing how adamant Abigail was, Ivy fibbed a bit. "Fine, I will make it easy for you. If you can transform him from a playboy into a more respectable man and still want to leave, I will let you walk away as a free woman. What I need is a woman who doesn't love him and that is you. The reason is, you won't be hurt but you will cause him so much trouble that he would have no choice but to change. Will you do it?"
Abigail was slightly elated but she didn't accept Ivy's conditions immediately. She rather said, "I have my conditions too?"
"Let me hear it," Ivy gave her full ears.
"I want my father's health to be given immediate attention and I will need you to give him a substantial amount of money to pick his life back after his treatment. As for me, I want nothing after the divorce," she stated matter of factly. She was ready to work for her money and depend on no one.
Ivy smiled reassuringly, "Consider your conditions met." That said, she rose to her feet extending her hand to Abigail.
Abigail smiled and looked up at her. She seemed different from other sophisticated women in M City. She reached out and held her extended hand. "So when do I marry your son?" She asked Ivy, receiving a shocking revelation, "now."
"What? I'm famished. I haven't eaten for days," she said truthfully. She didn't even have the strength to stand, only doing so with Ivy's help.
Ivy was calm. It was the way of the elite. All she had to do was give orders and everything would be sorted with a snap of the finger. "Just leave everything to me but you will sign the marriage certificate now," Ivy's two hands rested on Abigail's shoulders, their eyes boring into each other as she said. One of the bodyguards brought out a document. A part was covered with only the signature portion revealed. With a shaky hand, Abigail appended her signature, a satisfied smile appearing on Ivy's face.
She needed to secure everything before she took the next step, seeing Abigail's battle within herself. Abigail kissed her father for the last time on his forehead when a helicopter landed a few meters away. "They are here to transport your father," Ivy notified her. She smiled for the second time with hope. Her father was going to be fine, making it all worth it.
It was the first time Abigail received VIP treatment in anything, making it all a fantasy. The wedding gown was purchased in haste, her cleaning up, makeup and all. Unfortunately, there was no time for a makeover and no matter how they worked on her look, it couldn't match that of Ashley at a short notice. Besides, Abigail was malnourished, her skin pale. She couldn't be as stunning as Ashley.
When Abigail walked the aisle, everyone waited for the opportunity for her to be unveiled. It was so much pressure for someone who knew nothing about the life of the elite. Her stomach churned from the food she ate since she hadn't eaten in days and it was also different from the unwholesome food she was spared at home. Her stepmother and stepsisters envied her, same as the maidens, who thought they had the chance.
Abigail couldn't even fake a smile but she wasn't the only one. Her legs felt heavy with each step she took, her heartbeat raked like it was going to fall. Tony's frown deepened when he unveiled his bride. The only thing stopping him from rejecting her was the fact that his position in the Wrights' company was at stake tomorrow. However, he doesn't see how he could even share a room with her. The media had begun clicking their cameras while the priest did his job,
"Mr Tony Wright, do you take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife, to love and to hold, to cherish and to comfort, in sickness and in health till death do you part?" The voice of the priest cut through his puzzled thoughts, he let out a long sigh.
"Tony, the priest is waiting," Isaac tapped him for the umpteenth time before he came out of his trance. He was deflated and lost the courage to do this. One moment, he was going to marry the love of his life and the next moment, he was getting married to a stranger. It wasn't how he imagined his life with his future wife. He tried to put up a good show but the pain was simply hard to miss. He was broken. The auditorium had blown up in murmurs and not only was Abigail's palms sweaty but her stockings felt wet from the nervous heat christening her. Her body seemed to not feel the low temperature of the air-conditioner anymore. She couldn't meet the mocking eyes around her, bowing her head slightly in embarrassment. She never wanted this but she couldn't watch her father die. A burst of mocking chuckle closed up on her, sucking the only strength she had left. Not having enough energy after being malnourished for a long time, she felt weak. How could she not have known that her stepmot
Ivy spurt into a peal of nervous laughter. "What do you think is wrong with her? She's just twenty, never been under so much pressure. She's overwhelmed with everything. It's nothing serious," she assured him.Tony frowned. "Twenty? She looks like she's twelve. Too thin."Ivy was taken off guard, not expecting Tony to make those observations in a woman he didn't like but the fact was staring her in the face. Tony had had too much experience with women and didn't need a doctor to know that something was wrong with the woman his mother brought for him. Ivy couldn't tell Tony the truth. He would despise Abigail. "She is petite. Nothing serious. Everything happened so...ehm…I mean so fast, she's being nostalgic," she tactfully said but her actions spoke otherwise and Tony was too smart to not notice."Then why are you nervous and stuttering? I never heard you stammer before. Besides, she is the lightest woman I have ever carried. Doesn't she eat? She seems to
The driver didn't opt to open the door when they arrived. They were in the public eye. Abigail nervously draped on her fur coat, which had been given her by Ivy to fight off the chilly autumn wind. Tony alighted and walked over to Abigails' side. A small smile lined his lips when he opened the door but his eyes were distant when he extended his hand towards her. Ivy's car had pulled over behind them but she couldn't offer any form of help at the moment. The couple had to solve their own problems.The camera flashes, brighter than the sparkling lights illuminating the luxurious hotel, blinded Abigail when her side of the door opened. She could feel a thousand gazes on her, making her stiff and cramp. As if given permission, the microphones and cameras were all around her, she felt hot from their closeness and the blinding camera flashes as soon as the sole of her stilettos touched the red carp
Back in the conference room where the documents were being signed and the transition ongoing, the event was interrupted by a live video on the screen. Richard wanted to prove to his father that he could separate Tony from his newly wedded wife in just a few minutes therefore, everything happening in the garden was being played. He had forgotten to turn off the secret camera when things began moving antithetically.Now, everything had turned in Abigail's favour. His shame was displayed in the open. As the saying goes, when you throw a ball against the wall, it will bounce back to you. Tony had left to the garden at a stroke, while Ivy took over the remaining details. Isaac tried to keep the media in check but he seemed to be failing terribly since they kept following Tony secretly till he stopped a little away from the pair.His fiery
"You chose this dog over me?" Tony asked Ashley in a cold - bitter tone. Everyone in the dining room hushed. They were eager to hear Tony's response to Richard and Ivy almost intervened to prevent her son from taking a bizarre decision.Yet, it would be a humiliation to Tony if she did. He would be seen as being babied by mama at age thirty. Whereas after swearing-in Tony as the president, she debunked involving herself. This was between two elites proven responsible enough to take tough decisions.The Woods family were always known to be the butchers, cutting without minding where it hurt. All that mattered was for power to be transferred to them.The corner of Tony's lip curled into a mischievous grin and he stared at Richard like a clown. All his opponent's plans sa
"Otherwise? That you feel something for me? No. I won't even dream of it," Abigail expressed with certainty. It wasn't the first time Tony spoke irrationally to her. She ignored him yesterday but was prepared for a throwback this time. She was on a mission that could only be accomplished if she earned his respect. She wasn't going to be his doormat. She did him a favour and his mother paid her father's medical bills. Now she was stuck until he let go of those chippies. If that doesn't happen, then she had to say bye-bye to freedom. Her cheeks turned blood red in embarrassment and she didn't swallow it at this moment. "In order not to have any ideas, I will prefer to have dinner at home," she said gently but her demeanour carried determination.Her gentle voice did great in hiding the anger boiling inside her as she ordered the driver, "please take me to the villa." Tony saw her attitude to be bossy. Two captains cannot Mann the same ship. His teeth were
Tony felt an unavoidable headache, being caught on the spot. If it were an emergency, he wouldn't mind carrying her because she was as light as a feather but the girl was fit with two legs. His resistance was duly based on the suspicion that Abigail was trying to seduce him, recalling what she said to Richard that an acquaintance if nurtured could grow into love. He wasn't buying that. If he didn't like her at first sight, then it wasn't going to change but the girl was outsmarting him and her wit was becoming more and more extreme. Nevertheless, if she was planning to make him fall in love with her, then she could continue dreaming because that wasn't going to happen. With a clenched jaw, he stepped forward and attempted to lift her into his arms but Abigail took a step back, soaking him in a slush of confusion. "Your face looks scary. Can you smile a little?" Her voice was soft and pure,
What Tony didn't know was, Abigail had no intention of forgiving him easily but when she stormed out of the car and began walking away, she caught sight of a man in black with a camera. He was covered with the darkness but Abigail quickly made him out, which was the reason she kept putting Tony in the spot. Her only intention was to protect Tony's image, especially after everything that happened earlier. If the media portrayed them as the perfect couple, it would shine Tonys' integrity. Whereas her behaviour tonight from Tony's perspective was flirtatious, therefore, he didn't believe her. Yanking her by the waist just before she took another step, he snarled, "don't try to cover up the fact that you are into me. It's nothing to be ashamed of," he smirked. For as long as he knew, he was good looking and wealthy. Everywoman loved him and Abigail wasn't an exception. Abigail sighed, gently pushing him away and said, "don't believe me, why not check the newspapers on Mo