Will you have Christmas lunch with us?

Gladys is that you?" Edward stood up from his chair and stalked over to the windows. He almost hadn’t answered the phone when he saw the strange number, but he was now glad he had. "I’ve been trying to call you."

"I’m sorry to be calling you at work.”

The unease in her voice must be because they had not spoken in over a week. "You know that has never been a problem Gladys. To tell you the truth, my mind couldn't be on the job. I've been calling your number for the past few days. The girl on the phone said you were not there..."

"I have to apologize for that. Aunt Isioma has a new house help who was receiving your calls without telling anyone in the house."

"I was worried you had traveled."

“I am actually in Enugu right now…”

“I hope it’s not because of what happened last week?”

“That had a bit to do with it. I didn’t want to spend Christmas in Lagos when we were on such terms. But I’m glad I came back, I’m enjoying being with my family.”

“How are your mum and brothers?”

“They're fine. None of them is here though. I’ve probably not been very good company.” She laughed at herself.

"Gladys I know the stress I've put you through. I’m sorry about that. I was serious about the proposal but not the way it came out. That was thoughtless, please accept my apology."

When she remained silent, he continued, "I've not been myself since that day. I felt terrible after you left and the only reason I didn’t call the next day was because I wanted us to calm down. After that I had many things to sort out in my head. And then I couldn’t get through to you…”

“I’m sorry too Edward, I guess I could have called you too. As the days passed and you didn’t call, I assumed the worst. But I was about to call you when my aunt called."

"I’ve got to tell you this Gladys; I can't hold it back any longer. I'm really in love with you and was just too afraid to acknowledge it. I cherish you with all my heart, body and soul.”

He heard her gasp. “What are you saying Edward?”

"I have thought about it a lot both before and after my blunder last week. But each time I picked up the phone I put it down because I know what pain those three little words can bring. I have loved people who almost destroyed my life. When I left my last foster home, I swore never to care so much for anyone. What they did was doubly painful because I had put so much stock by them. I realized that when I stopped caring, the sting of what happened left me. I made up my mind from then to keep my emotions out of all my dealings with people.”

“I’m so sorry Edward. You never told me all this before now.”

“I will tell you all about it later.” Edward took a deep breath and continued; "I knew I had fallen in love with you almost two months ago. It was so difficult to deny it after that day at the beach; I dreamt I asked you to marry me. I didn't want to admit the reason even to myself, I only knew that I wanted you.”

“Edward, why didn’t you let me know?”

“I should have, but I was already involuntarily shoring up my defenses. However, this week has taught me a lot. I have to learn to trust you and your love for me. My life won’t be the same without you. I prefer you in it so I have decided to give my heart a chance to love again.”

“At least you believe that I love you.” There were tears in her voice.

“Please don’t cry Gladys. Forgive me for trying to sabotage the relationship.”

“I can’t bear a grudge against you, I forgive you Edward. I now also understand part of why you did and said some of the things you did.”

He couldn’t hold back the declaration. “I love you Gladys.”

The sound of her laughter raised his spirits. “I love you too,” she replied.

“Have dinner with me on Boxing day so that I can tell you more.”

“Aren’t you in Lagos? I'm in Enugu.”

“Since when did distance stop me? Do we have a date or not?”

Gladys laughed out loud. “Will you have lunch with us on Christmas day?”

“It will be my pleasure darling. I’ll see you soon.”

He flipped the phone shut when they concluded the conversation and summoned his personal assistant immediately to book a flight ticket for him.