By Sheillah Maonga
To read part one, click here
Neema saw Gaki sobbing, but she did not have the strength to console her. She ditched her chair and sat on the floor, in solidarity with her best friend. She started crying too. She too could still not believe it. She could not believe that Maina could be this duplicitous. Five years they had dated, and not once did he mention that he was married. Even this one time he mentioned it to her, it was because he couldn’t hide it any longer, and not because he wanted to.
They had a long distance relationship, with her in London and him in Nairobi. It worked for them because they saw each other every two months. And, in the interim, they spoke on video several times daily. They were as close as they could be.
When they hit the five year mark, they had decided that they should live together. It was a joint decision, initiated by Maina himself. He had said that he wanted to marry Neema at some point, and Neema had said that they needed to live together in the same country for a while, then decide on marriage after that. They settled for Kenya instead of the UK, and Neema started making plans to leave the UK. The plans were going very well until when he mentioned that they would need to live apart for a few months as he sorted out his personal life. They were sitting on a hammock on beach house when he broke the news to her. They were on a mini holiday in Zanzibar. When they had arrived there, she had been so awed by its beauty that she named the place ‘paradise.’
This paradise was certainly not the conducive venue for such news and every time she replayed that conversation in her mind, she remembered the romantic glow of the sunset and the soothing sounds of the waves. This setting always made the message sound even more cruel.
“What do you mean we can’t live together until you sort out your personal issues?” She had asked him.
“I mean exactly that. I have personal issues to settle. ”
“What issues are these that dictate I can’t be there in your house as you deal with them?” She had asked laughingly. She was taking it all as a joke, because she knew that the sole reason she was relocating to Kenya was that they could live together. That is what they both wanted. Not living together was not an option.
“They are serious issues.” Maina had answered.
“We will deal with these serious issues together. From the comfort of our house.” Neema had said conclusively. “From now onwards, there is no your issue or my issue. It is our issue.”
“I wish it was as simple as that, Nene. But, this issue; it is mine. Not ours. After this one, all other issues will be ours.” He had said, and something about his face told Neema that he was serious.
“You are serious, Maich.”
“Yes, I’m serious, Nene.”
“So, there really is a personal issue, isn’t there?”
“Yes. There is.'”
“Tell me what it is.”
“If I tell you, you will leave me.”
“I don’t think there is anything you can say that can make me leave you. You are the best thing that’s happened to me. I just can’t let you go.”
He sat up and then without looking at her face, he told her that he was married. And, that he’d been married for ten years. Meaning that for the five years they had been together, they were committing adultery. That he had a wife all along. He kept on talking, but she couldn’t hear him. She saw his mouth move but could not hear any words. She was blocking it all, because it was too painful to bear.
She stood up as he was still talking and started walking away from him. She kept on walking until dusk, covering miles of sand.
He did not follow her.
She returned late at night and found him sleeping on the couch. She went and slept on the bed, and the next day, she caught the next flight to Nairobi, cutting her mini holiday short. She called Gaki for an impromptu meeting, and here they were, both crying their eyes out.
“Look at us.” Gaki said. “We look a sight.”
“We are even scaring the waiters from serving us. What must they think of us, when they see us on the floor?” Neema added.
“They must really think we are gay. Because we are crying together.”
“They must say that a couple that cries together, stays together.” Neema said, causing them to burst out laughing.
“I am so sorry, my dear.” Gaki said. “I didn’t expect that of Maina.”
“Let us not talk about him. We will start crying again.” Neema said. “Let us talk about local gossip. So, tell me, what’s happening?”
“Let us get back to our seats first. Here on the floor is not comfortable at all.” Gaki said.
“Why did you go on the floor anyway? I was so uncomfortable sitting down there.” Neema said, as she made herself comfortable on the chair.
“It is an old habit. When I am in severe pain, I feel as if I am falling, and only the floor can contain me. The places that I have sat, you don’t want to know.”
“But I do want to know, Gaki. Everything. Spill the beans. I shan’t laugh at all. I shan’t even laugh if you tell me that you have sat in the middle of the road or even a public toilet.” Neema quipped.
“How I miss you, my best friend. You can make me cry in one minute. Then make me laugh in another. I am lucky to have you.”
“I am lucky to have you too. When Maina broke to me the news about his marriage, I knew I had to come to you to fall apart. We were on that Zanzibar holiday that you and I were expecting a proposal when this is what he told me. The holiday ended on the spot. I, thus, will be in Kenya for a whole week, with nothing to do other than nursing a broken heart; so please note that I need to spend each moment with you as I lick my wounds.” Neema said, part jokingly, part seriously.
“Anything for you, my best friend. I remember when Onyango’s affair came to light, I called you and you dropped everything and flew out to me. You held me up during those dark days. I didn’t know I would get through them. I felt like someone had torn my heart from my body.”
“That’s where I am right now.” Neema said.
“Come for a hug. A long one, just as you like them. Let them talk.” Gaki said as she stood up and drew Neema into a long embrace. Neema started crying afresh.