I didn’t know how to tell him that I had slept with his best friend in his absence and that it had changed my perception about everything, including my feelings for him. He had gone away, again – disappearing for days without a trace and making no effort to contact me.

My heartbeat increased. I battled whether or not to tell him. Added to my confusion was the fact that Mike also had a lot of issues. There he was, asking me to marry him, his right knee on the floor. The shiny ring looked like it will turn brown in just a matter of months, or maybe I was finding every excuse to reject him.

He knelt for almost three minutes, his countenance showing that he was getting tired. Yet, his eyes looked up at me. I wondered if his neck pained him. I wondered about everything else until I could wonder no more.

‘I slept with James, Mike.’ My eyeballs quivered, both in fear and uncertainty.

‘What?’ The ring fell from in-between his thumb and index finger. His eyes scanned the floor in an effort to find it but gave up. ‘Damn!’ He punched into the air, dipped his hand into his overly grown afro and held it tight.

‘I knew it. I just knew it! I knew it!’ he said repeated. He wanted to cry. He scratched his eyes like something had entered them. Then, rubbed on his face, all to prevent the tears from falling.

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‘I’m sorry, Mike,’ I said, my lips bursting in tears. I covered them with my palms.

‘Sorry! How could you do this to me, Grace, how could you? I was away for just a month, just one fucking month!’ He made a fist.

‘A month of no word from you!’ I clapped back. I wanted my voice to be heard too. Maybe then he’d understand how I felt.

‘Shut the fuck up!’ He pressed his palms together, like he was squeezing the life out of something, but I was not scared. It would never be me. He loved me too much to kill me.

Mike was always being carted away by the police for something. He would disappear for days and lie to me about it whenever he finally came visiting. He only started telling me the truth two months ago, when I threatened to leave him.

That time, he had gotten into a fight with a man who bribed the police to lock him up for at least, a month. When he came back, he narrated his dream in the cell to me – I was getting married to a man not him.

‘How did it happen?’ he asked.

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‘You really want me to…’

‘Tell me how fuck you screwed him!’ the force in his voice startled me. ‘Fuck’ was already part of his vocabulary.

‘I was just desperate and confused. You know what leaving me without a word does to me. At a time, I couldn’t take it, and he was there.’ I tried choosing my words carefully, to make him hurt less. I never thought of marrying him, his attitude wouldn’t let me.

‘Mike, we can’t get married like this. I can’t spend the rest of my life with a guy whose own is in a big mess. I’m sorry.’

I wanted to say James was much better than him in all aspects; that I had blindly loved a criminal; that he was a criminal; that her heart had tilted like a pendulum. I felt sorry that it was with James, his best friend, but there was no regret in my heart, I did search.

He exhaled deeply, trying to regain composure, I guessed.

‘Gracie, you are right. I did not think about this decision to marry properly, but I still want us to go through with it. I’ll change. I’ll forget what happened with James. Just don’t speak with him again. Just marry me please, please, I love you so much. I’d stop getting into trouble. Please.’

He had held my hand. I slightly withdrew. Mike, you don’t understand. I cannot marry you feeling like that for another man.

‘OK. Come.’ He held out his hand. He hugged me. I could feel his heartbeat. His heart was on fire. It only meant one thing. James was not safe.

He kissed me and told me how bad he felt that James had done the same thing, or even better. Mike would surely not let him remember the taste for long. I knew, the sooner I ran away with James, the better.

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Art Credit: @qualih


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