Later that afternoon, Jasmine eventually got in touch with Damy’s parents. They had already filed a missing person report at the Police Station. After reassuring them that Damy was safe, Jasmine asked them to come over to the centre, so they could talk.

Damy’s parents arrived a couple of hours later. They thanked Jasmine profusely and apologised to Damy for doubting him. Jasmine encouraged them to allow Damy to continue with his therapy at the centre. It would take some time for his scars to heal. They also vowed to press charges against Jim.

“Miss Smith, I can assure you that we’ll be pressing charges against Jim. My wife and I also promise to pay closer attention to our son and adjust our schedules to avoid any future occurrences.”

“That is so good to hear sir,”

Jasmine cried out in surprise as Damy ran over to her and gave her a hug.

“Thank you, Jasmine. You are my hero.”

She smiled at that and planted a huge kiss on his cheek. “No, Damy you are the hero.” She handed him her card. “Keep this safe ok? Remember to call me if you ever need anything.”

Damy and his parents left Healing Hearts and Jasmine tried to go back to work. She was unsure how that would be possible as she felt drained emotionally. She always did whenever she had an encounter/session with any of her kids. Those encounters took her back to a place where she hoped she’d never have to be again. Gripping the edges of her desk tightly, Jasmine closed her eyes and tried to repress the painful memories, threatening to surface.

Breathe, Jasmine. Take deep breaths. He can never hurt you again. You made sure of that.

“Madame, there is a man here requesting to see you. He says his name is Ben.”

A call from her secretary jolted her back to the present. Three weeks after meeting Ben, they had become buddies of a sort. They went jogging together almost every day since then and had interesting conversations while at it. In truth, Jasmine looked forward to their jogging sessions. She wondered what he was doing at her office since they had spoken earlier in the day.

“Let him in.”.

Jasmine smoothed an imaginary wrinkle in her skirt and tried to still the nervous flutters in her stomach. A few seconds later, Ben walked into her office. Her heart leapt at the sight of him.

“Good afternoon Ben. What a pleasant surprise! Please do have a seat.”

 “Thank you, Jasmine.” Ben took the seat she offered him and declined her offer for refreshments. “I am fine, thank you. I don’t have much of an appetite.”

“Why? Is anything the matter?”

Ben shook his head. “I am sorry for barging in on you unannounced, but I just needed someone to talk to and you were the first person that came to mind.”

The knowledge that he had thought of her first pleased her immensely, but she didn’t show it.

“No, you don’t have to apologise Ben. Tell me what the problem is exactly. Maybe I can help.”

“I don’t know how to say this,” He hesitated. “I have just been laid off.”

“Oh! I am so sorry to hear that.”

“It’s fine. I just wasn’t expecting that I would fall victim of the downsizing.” His sober expression lightened up. “That’s all water under the bridge now. I’ll get past it. Enough about my jobless self. Tell me, Jasmine, how did a ‘magna cum laude’ graduate of Architecture, end up running an NGO for abused kids?”

Jasmine sighed. He was correct. She had graduated from college, with great honour. However, Jasmine had always felt unfulfilled, like she should be doing something more people-oriented. Those feelings resulted in her pursuing a different path instead.

“It’s a long story.”

Her reply was rather curt, she knew. But she wasn’t ready to disclose any parts of her past to anyone yet… no matter how much she liked them.

Ben rose and made to leave. “I apologise if I have offended you. I should be on my way now. Thank you for listening to my rant.”

Jasmine was on her feet in an instant. “No don’t leave!”

He looked back at her in surprise.

Jasmine scoured her mind for a reason to make him stay. She said the first thing that popped into her head. “What I mean is: I think I may have a way of turning your current situation around for good”

“Really? How?”

“I could have a word with my Uncle, Donald Adewole-Smith. He should be able to find you a position in one of his numerous establishments.”

“Wait, do you mean THE Donald Adewole-Smith, Gubernatorial aspirant of LFP, is your uncle?”

Jasmine chuckled at Ben’s incredulous look as she nodded.

“Wow. Thank you. I deeply appreciate this.”

Jasmine shrugged. “It’s not a big deal. He’s out of the country now, but I think he’s due back in two weeks. I hope you will be able to get by until then?”

“Yes, sure.”

“Good” Jasmine was elated that she had at least lifted his spirits.

“To show my appreciation, I would like to take you out to lunch. Please, say yes.”

“Of course. In fact, I know a lovely restaurant just around the corner.”

Ben had succeeded in crawling under Jasmine’s skin and she was gradually letting her guard down. Her well-built defenses were crumbling and she could do nothing to stop it.

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