“Denise is such a snob” Sharon told her friend Eleanor. Eleanor gazed at her friend. They were at a mutual friend’s wedding, on a hot Saturday afternoon. The sun was high in the sky, spreading the heat into the white tents that had been erected on a school field in a semicircular formation. Some people were dancing at the middle of the semicircle, led by the bride and the groom under the guidance of an excitable MC. The DJ played Kikuyu gospels songs, and middle aged women danced heartily. Even the older men forgot their ordinary stern postures and joined the dance, their potbellies swaying like genetically modified melons.
Eleanor and Sharon chose to sit back under the tents and watch the dance. Eleanor followed Sharon’s eyes to where Denise was standing with Jim. The two had taken a break from the dance and were taking a selfie. Jim was in his mid-twenties, a young man of average height with an athletic body. He had a well-trimmed goatee and sideburns, and his hair was neatly cropped. He was wearing a pair of blue jeans, a checked shirt that was left untucked and white trainers. He had one hand loosely over Denise’s shoulder while the other held out the phone for the selfie snap. Denise was slightly shorter than he was, a brown beauty with short hair.
“She looks okay to me” Eleanor replied. “And she is great with kids. They adore her!”
“That’s because Jim teaches Sunday school. She pretends to win his affection” Sharon countered.
“Well, that would be nice,” Eleanor said, a small smile breaking on her face.
“Jim dating Denise. Just look at them. They look so adorable together.” Eleanor looked dreamily at Jim and Denise, who were oblivious of what was happening behind them.
“I don’t think so. Jim deserves better. He is warm and affectionate while Denise is cold and self-centered. That is, when she is not wearing that pretentious smile for the benefit of Jim.”
Eleanor looked at her friend. She knew Sharon and Jim were close. They had always been together at the University. So much so that some people thought they were dating. The truth was, when they were in third year, Jim had asked Sharon to be his girlfriend but she had declined, insisting they should just be friends. Eleanor had been baffled. She had always assumed that Sharon liked Jim.
“He is not my type,” Sharon had told her at the time. “He is too nice. I mean, kinda spineless. You know what I mean?”
Eleanor had just grunted vaguely in reply.
Jim was a nice chap. He had a ready smile for everyone, a smile that was genuinely warm and affectionate. He hated drama, and always steered clear of controversy, perhaps the reason Sharon called him spineless. His friendship with Sharon blossomed, but he never asked her out again. He respected her decision, he had told Eleanor later.
Instead, in their last semester at the university, Sharon had started dating Kevin. Kevin was the University rugby captain, a huge guy with an ego double his size. He spoke with a deep baritone that made Sharon weak at the knees. He walked and spoke with an air of authority, so that even some lecturers were a little intimidated in his presence. He was not into politics, but campus politicians fell over themselves trying to befriend him. Both because he came from a wealthy family, and was therefore moneyed and connected, and also because he had a charisma that made him popular in campus. Sharon certainly felt privileged to be his girlfriend. I mean, he was every campus girl’s dream boyfriend. The fact that he was always surrounded by girls didn’t seem to bother her. It would be selfish to deny him the attention of his fans, she said. She certainly did not want to appear to be the petty, selfish girlfriend.
So she would hang around Jim, like she had always done since their freshman year. Kevin did not seem bothered by their friendship. Sharon insisted it was because he found her when she was already friends with Jim. But Eleanor did not think so. She thought it was because he did not have any real feelings for Sharon. No man would be comfortable having his girlfriend hang around another man all the time if he truly loves her, she insisted. Sharon did not take that kindly. It degenerated into a bitter argument, to the extent that they did not speak to each other for a couple of weeks. Until Jim intervened and negotiated a truce.
Anyway, Sharon’s friendship with Jim continued to grow. After school the three of them settled in same church. They had been serving in the Christian Union, and wanted a church that would give them an experience similar to that. Sharon and Eleanor naturally co-rented a house. Jim lived not far away from them. Kevin would show up once in a while at their church, but often said he had a tournament out of town. Once in a while he took Sharon to these tournaments, but mostly he didn’t. In fact, they were meeting less frequently now. Perhaps because they no longer lived in the same compound like they did in the campus hostels. Eleanor knew Sharon was getting impatient with Kevin, but was too proud to admit she had made a mistake.
But then Denise happened. Jim loved children, and therefore volunteered to teach Sunday school at their new church. That is where he met Denise, and their connection was almost instant. Their friendship flourished quickly, and as a result, Jim spent more time with her and less with Sharon. Eleanor knew this is what was bothering Sharon.
“Denise is okay, I think you are just jealous,” She said now, cautiously. The memory of their bitter argument over Kevin was still fresh in her mind. Sharon looked at her.
“Why would I be? I have a boyfriend. Besides, like I have told you before, he is not my type. But he is my friend. I just want the best for him.”
“He may not be your type, but he has been your best friend all these years. All his attentions were on you. But Denise is taking that away from you now, and you hate her for it,” Eleanor pressed.
“You don’t know what you are talking about.”
“Yes I do. And deep down you know I am right. Look Sharon, if you don’t want to date Jim, let the boy be. If he has found happiness in Denise, then so be it. Concentrate on your Kevin. You can’t have both Kevin and Jim you know. It is not even fair on Jim. He deserves a girl who loves him,” Eleanor said with conviction.
Sharon looked away, and Eleanor feared she had gone too far. But she was relieved that she had spoken her mind, and she knew she was right. Sharon was lost in thought. She also knew Eleanor was right. She had to let Jim go. But Oh Lord why! Why couldn’t Kevin be half as caring and attentive as Jim? Why couldn’t Jim be as manly and authoritative as Kevin? Why did God decide to give her two half packages instead of one full package?
The two friends sat in silence, each lost in her own thoughts. The dance had ended, and the bride’s father was giving a speech although it was obvious very few were listening. Sharon looked at where Denise and Jim were seated. Jim leaned and whispered something in Denise’s ear, and they both giggled. Eleanor looked at her friend with sisterly concern. She wished there was something she could do to help. So she took her friend’s left palm and clasped it in both of hers. Sharon sighed. Oh Lord…