An Ultimatum

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I was in my office when Cordelia walked in. I stared at her in surprise. I wasn’t expecting her. She hadn’t called to let me know that she was stopping by. Before I could say anything, she said, “I want you to end your relationship with that girl.”

Startled, I asked her, “What girl?”

“That university student you’ve been sneaking around with.”

I stared at her. How the devil did she know?

As if she read my mind, she said, “You’re my fiancé. I know everything you do.”

“You mean your father does and he reports back to you.”

“Can you blame him? I’m his only daughter and he wants me to be happy.”

“That doesn’t excuse him spying on me.”

“He has the right to do what he thinks is best when it concerns me. When he discovered your relationship with that girl, he told me and warned me that if you didn’t break it off immediately, you will regret it. My father doesn’t make idle threats. He meant what he said. End your relationship with the girl.”

“I’ll think about it,” I said tightly.

Her eyebrows rose. “What’s there to think about?” she demanded. “You have no choice. Think about your career. As you well know, my father has connections. And he had the power help you to ruin you. If it weren’t for him, you would still be a pencil pusher in a stuffy little office.”

As I watched her, my eyes filled with dislike and resentment for both her and her father. I regretted meeting her, getting involved with her and asking her to marry me. Why did I ask her to marry me when I didn’t even love her? It was a bloody foolish thing to do and now, here she was rubbing it in my face that I was enjoying a powerful political career and a very likely candidate for becoming the next governor, thanks to her father. They will never let me forget the debt I owed him. And now, if I valued my career, I would end my relationship with Sita or else…

My mind and heart rebelled at the thought of breaking up with Sita. How could I do it? I was madly in love with her. After having met her, I can’t imagine my life without her now. We met three months ago at a charitable fashion show organized by my sister, Madelina. Sita was one of the models.

From the moment she walked out onto the platform, I couldn’t take my eyes off her. She was medium height, with a full figure and lovely dark complexion. Her movements were lithe and graceful. I fancied that she was a model by profession and was astonished to learn that she wasn’t.

“No,” she said, smiling up at me. “I’m not a model. I’m a fourth year university student.”

“Really? Which university?” I asked, trying not to stare but it was impossible. Such big and beautiful and expressive eyes, the lovely smile and soft, accented voice. I was mesmerized. We were alone. Madelina had gone off to talk to one of the organizers of the event.

“London.”

“What are you studying?”

“Nutrition and Food Policy.”

“Sounds very interesting.”

“It is. I’ve always been very interested in nutrition. I want to be able to come up with solutions for the challenges which affect nutrition and public health of individuals, communities and the world.”

“A very admirable choice of career,” I told her, my admiration for her increasing.

“What do you do?” she asked.

“I’m in Politics.”

Her eyes widened. “Really?”

“Yes. Have dinner with me and I’ll tell you more.” It was just after six and I knew exactly which restaurant I wanted to take her to. I hoped she didn’t already have plans.

“I’d love to,” she said, beaming up at me.

Relieved, I excused myself, went and said goodbye to Madelina and we left. Dinner was splendid. We talked and talked while savoring the best Italian food I’ve ever tasted. We told each other about ourselves. And when I took her the flat she shared with a cousin, we made plans to see each other again. In no time, we became lovers. Naturally, I never mentioned a word about Cordelia to her. I was afraid that if I told her that I was engaged, she would never want to see me again.

I suppose I should have known that Cordelia’s father would have been keeping tabs on me, the insufferable sod. Who did he think he was? Did he think he owned me because he helped me with my career? I was sick and tired of feeling like I owed him my life as well as my career.

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I looked coldly now at Cordelia and said, “You can tell your father that I’m not going to end my relationship with Sita.”

Cordelia glared at me. “Don’t be absurd,” she exclaimed. “You are going to dump her. I will not have you cheating on me while we’re married.”

“You won’t have to worry about that because I’m not going to marry you.”

Shock replaced the anger on her face which became pale. “What?”

“The engagement is off, Cordelia.”

“You can’t be serious.”

“On the contrary, I’m very serious. I don’t love you and I don’t fancy being indebted to your damned father for the rest of my life. You can tell him that I quit.”

“Chase, you can’t mean it. You can’t.”

“I mean it, Cordelia. I’m saying goodbye to you and to this bloody career.”

“You’re willing to throw everything away for that wretched African girl?”

“Yes! I love her and I want to spend the rest of my life with her. Goodbye, Cordelia.” I turned on my heel and walked out of the office. I felt liberated. It was a wonderful feeling.

That evening at my flat, I told Sita everything–about Cordelia and her father. She listened. I watched different emotions play on her face, my heart pounding. Was she going to break up with me because I hadn’t told her that I was engaged when we met or even after we began seeing each other? I wouldn’t blame her, of course, if she wanted nothing more to do with me. The only good thing about this was that I was no longer engaged to Cordelia and I didn’t care what her bloody did to me. Anything was better than being his son-in-law. He had no doubt that life with Cordelia would have been miserable. Yes, she loved him but she was her after all, her father’s daughter. She liked the idea of being the wife of a politician, particularly one who could very well become the next Governor.

When I finished speaking, there was silence. I watched Sita who was sitting beside the window, staring at me. The sun peaked through the Venetian blinds casting lines on her face. My hands were clenched at my sides as I waited anxiously for her to say something.

Finally, she asked. “Do you really think that he’s going to ruin you?”

“Yes, he’s the sort of man who would.”

“Are you sure you about this, Chase?”

“Yes. I’m very sure.”

“So, what are you going to do now?”

“I don’t know. Look for another job, I guess.”

“If you and I hadn’t met, would you have married her?”

“I might have and lived to regret it.”

“Then, I guess it’s good that we met.”

“Yes. It was. Perhaps, Divine intervention.”

“Perhaps.” She got up from the chair where she was sitting and came over to where I was standing. “I should be very upset with you for not telling me that you were engaged.”

“I wouldn’t blame you if you were.”

“While I don’t like it, I understand why you didn’t tell me.”

“I was afraid of losing you.”

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“I know. I wouldn’t have continued seeing you if you had told me.”

“And now?”

“And now, it’s too late. I’ve fallen in love with you and can’t imagine not being with you because you weren’t honest with me.”

I took a hesitant step towards her, my eyes restless on her face. How I ached to take her in my arms and hold her tightly. “Where do we go from here?” I asked tautly.

“We will go to that Indian restaurant just around the corner from here and talk more about your future.”

“Are you going to be a part of my future, Sita?”

“Of course,” she exclaimed.

I reached out and pulled her against me. After hugging her tightly, I kissed her on the lips before we headed for the foyer. We went to the restaurant and over Chicken Marsala, we talked about me and where to begin looking for a new job.

Cordelia returned the ring. It came by special post. I returned it to jewelers. The following week, I got myself another job and the following week, I bought another engagement. I proposed to Sita over a romantic, candlelight dinner at my place and she accepted. We are busy making plans for our wedding which is in June after she graduates.

Cordelia’s father never made good on his threat to ruin me although I kept expecting him to. Perhaps, she talked him out of it.

Source: City University of London

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