By Sheillah Maonga

He was a good man. One of the best she had ever met. He treated her well. Like something precious and fragile. At first, it had unnerved her because she was used to bad boys that treated her as an unwanted afterthought. So, Maina was a breath of much needed fresh air. He was what she needed- what she had not known she was missing all her life. She loved him more than she had ever loved anyone on earth; and that’s why her heart was presently in turmoil.

“A penny for your thoughts.” She heard a voice say. She turned around and saw her friend Gaki. She stood up to embrace her. Neema loved how Gaki felt. She felt like home. Neema held onto the embrace a little longer than expected. She needed to milk that feeling.

“Hey, let go. This isn’t London, where homophobia isn’t there.” Gaki said jokingly as she pulled away from the embrace.

“You mean these people here will think we are lovers?” Neema queried, looking at the people in the restaurant.

“That hug was a tad too long.” Gaki replied. “You have not changed at all. Twenty years, and you still give me these long hugs.”

“You know why I give you these long hugs. It is because you feel so warm and safe. I just want to bury myself in you.”

“Heeeey! Heey! You have a boyfriend, Neema. Leave me alone.” Gaki said jokingly, as she sat down.

Neema looked at Gaki and felt warmth rise in her belly. Gaki had been her friend since primary school. That was two decades ago. They had maintained a closeness throughout the years; and even now, as they lived in different countries, they still kept their friendship intact. Neema felt grateful to have Gaki in her life. And; she knew that Gaki was the one to go to with her recent issue with Maina.

“Which boyfriend?” Neema replied.

“Maina, of course.” Gaki said. “Your boyfriend of 5 years. In fact, weren’t we waiting for a proposal? He looked like he was about to propose. Did it happen? Is that why you called me with such urgency for this meeting? Tell me that I am the best maid, so that we can start planning this wedding immediately. I am getting excited already.”

Neema looked down. Before she could stop herself, two fat tears dropped on the table.

Gaki stood up quick and was soon crouched next to her friend.

“What’s wrong, sweetie?” She asked, her voice full of concern.

“It is Maina.” Neema replied tearfully.

“What has he done?”

“He is married. To someone else. He is a married man.”

Gaki felt as if she had been kicked in the teeth. Gaki’s father had cheated on her mother when she was twelve years old. Her mother couldn’t get past it, forcing the father to leave their home. He soon started another family with another woman and forgot all about Gaki’ s mother and their children. The mother was a housewife, so, with the separation came poverty, since the family breadwinner had jumped ship. The mother sank into depression, which she never recovered from, leading to her suicide when Gaki was fifteen. Consequently, Gaki had vowed never to get married when she grew up.

Then she had met Onyango. He swept her off her feet and had proposed marriage to her after a year of dating. She had quickly dismissed her childhood vows and said yes to him.

Related: Life’s Sacrifices

They had been happily married with two children when she found out about his affair with their mutual friend. She kicked him out. It was now a year later, and she was still on the road to recovery. Slowly, she was starting to enjoy the ride, despite being on her own with the children. Then she received this unwelcome news about Maina. She felt her heart breaking all over again, for she knew how the pain of betrayal felt like. She wouldn’t wish that pain even on her worst enemy. Yet here was her best friend going through it. Gaki felt so powerless and broken by the news.

It was Gaki that had introduced Maina to Neema. She was sure Maina was single. They used to live in the same apartment complex then. He certainly lived alone all days of the year, she could ascertain. He didn’t have long absences either; that could be explained as going to see a wife. He had no female visitors, Gaki had established. He was her next-door neighbour, and because the walls were too thin, it was as if they were living in the same house, though in different rooms. So, she was sure that he was single. Unless if he got married recently because he had just moved from that building. It wasn’t even a month since he moved.

“When did he get married?” Gaki asked.

“He has always been married. From the very first day you introduced him to me.” Neema replied.

“Maina isn’t married.” Gaki said firmly.

“He is.” Neema said as she cried.

“Which Maina? Your Maina?”

“He is not my Maina anymore. He belongs to his wife. A woman called Sarai.”

“You must be mistaken.” Gaki insisted.

“I am not. I wish I was.”

Gaki paused to take it all in. It all sounded rather too surreal.

“How did you find out?” Gaki asked.

“He told me himself. That’s why I am so sure. I didn’t hear it from just anyone . It is Maina himself that told me.”

“I don’t believe this.” Gaki said, then she stood up as if to walk away. She then collapsed on the floor, clearly deep in thought. Once on the floor, she put her hands on her head, as if she was in deep mourning. She was thinking of her father’s betrayal. Then Onyango’s. And now Maina’s. She bowed her head further and started sobbing. She cried for her mother, for Neema and for herself. Even for Maina’s wife, whose name she had already forgotten.


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