Jedidah is sitting at a restaurant waiting for him. She likes him, a lot. In fact, she loves him, although that is a word she doesn’t use often these days, because she is not sure where she stands in his life. She has heard stories about women being used and ghosted by men they thought loved them, but who did not even have the courage to break up with them. They just disappear. These stories have made her cautious, and that is why she is not willing to continue investing her emotions in this man.
But her heart doesn’t seem to get the memo. She is still deeply in love with him. He is everything she wants in a man. Okay, almost everything. He is intelligent. She enjoys his company. He is firm and authoritative. He is a Christian. He looks like he has his life figured out. If he were to ask her to marry him, she would say yes without hesitating.
But that is where the problem lies.
Jacob has never asked her to be his girlfriend. Sure, he says he loves her, he calls and texts her every day. He has bought her a few gifts, four to be precise, in the years they have been dating, usually on her birthdays. Which is interesting because she lavishes him with gifts, not only on his birthdays but whenever she sees something she can afford that she thinks he would love. She has bought him shoes, a watch, belts, shirts, ties, numerous pairs of socks and many other items. Inexpensive items yes, but that was what she could afford. She saved for almost a year before she could afford to buy him the watch.
She cherishes the things he got for her, especially because they are so few: a wrist watch, a necklace and two pairs of earrings. He attends her events, like her graduation, her sister’s dowry event and the subsequent wedding. He also comes for events at her church whenever she invites him. They have technically been dating for almost five years, but he has never formally asked her to be his girlfriend.
The other thing is that Jacob has never taken her to a “proper” date. Sure, whenever she went home for holidays, he used to take her to cafes and bought her tea, but those are the tiny village restaurants where a mug of tea retails at Kshs. 20. True, their town Mbale is small and does not have the type of restaurants you have in Nairobi, but there is Jamaa Hotel which is affordable and has class. A mug of tea at the hotel’s restaurant retails at Kshs. 80 and that would have afforded them the ambience and privacy for a date. Besides, Kisumu is not that far away, he could have taken her there if he so wished.
Jedidah does not think she is materialistic. If Jacob was jobless like she had been, then the tea in the small cafes would have sufficed. But Jacob has had a job at Equity Bank for years now. He had been three years ahead of her at the University, and was hired by Equity almost immediately after clearing campus. During the time she was a student, he was working at Equity Bank Mbale branch. Now he is at Equity Bank Kimathi Street branch, Nairobi. She has a job at a small Sacco in Kikuyu, where she earns a paltry Kshs. 15, 000.
He lives in a nice two bedroom apartment and has furnished it with expensive-looking furniture, mats and curtains. He has a massive TV and a home theatre. He has trendy clothes. He doesn’t have a car but is always talking about buying one. Surely he can afford to spare Kshs. 1000 once in a while to buy her dinner is a nice restaurant-it doesn’t have to be a high end hotel, just a decent place where smoke from the kitchen doesn’t fill the dining area.
She met Jacob when she was a first year at the University of Nairobi School of Business. When she joined the Christian Union, she was introduced to evangelistic teams. These are fellowships that bring together students from a particular region. She joined WESO-Western Evangelical Students Organisation. Jacob was the WESO Chairman at the time. As it turned out, Jacob was practically her neighbor in Mbale, although she had never met him before. He became her mentor in the Christian faith and somewhere along the way he began telling her that he loved her. She was excited at the time at the idea of someone, a focused Christian leader to be precise, loving her. She became his de facto girlfriend-a girlfriend by the fact of acting like one, not because he actually asked her to be.
Today’s date is actually her idea. She offered to pay for it, and that is how he accepted. Somewhere deep inside she is hoping that he will pay, but she knows he won’t. She wants to set things straight tonight, although that makes her nervous. Having cleared school, she wants to know whether he has intentions of marrying her, or whether he is just wasting her time.
Like many other beautiful girls, she has had many other men wooing her. But Jacob is the man she loves, so she dismisses them and after trying for some time they usually leave her in peace. She is fully committed to Jacob, although she sometimes wonders whether she will miss out on a good husband while clinging on to the hope that Jacob will marry her, then end up disappointed.
Which is why she convened today’s meeting. She has indirectly brought up the question of marriage several times in the past year, but Jacob has been evasive. She does not want to continue to be in a situation where she does not know her position in his life. Not that this decision was easy to make. She is afraid. Very afraid.
What if she confronts him and he decides to leave her? Maybe he is just not ready for marriage and she is pressuring him. Who would want a nagging wife anyway? Maybe she should give him time. He is, after all, her boyfriend. He tells her that he loves her, and even though he has never introduced her to anyone as his girlfriend, she is his girlfriend. But on the other hand, how much time will she give him? She is not getting any younger. He has a job, has had one for almost five years now. So what exactly is he waiting for?
As if on cue, her phone rings. Morris. She met Morris by chance five months ago in Kakamega. Okay, it wasn’t the first time she was meeting him, but it was the first time they were meeting in a very long time. He is actually the one who recognized her first and called out to her from across the road. He was her classmate in primary school but when they went to high school, they lost contact. He went to Kanga High School and she went to Moi Tea Girls High School in Kericho.
He invited her to have coffee with him as they caught up. She was going to her aunt’s home in Kakamega, and since it was early afternoon and she was already in Kakamega, she agreed. She would be staying at her aunt for a week anyway, so there was no rush. They talked for almost three hours and exchanged numbers. She learned that from Kanga he went to Moi University to pursue a degree in economics. But he could not secure a job so he started hustling. First he started selling clothes from Gikomba, but that did not go down too well, so he started selling shoes. That worked and now he has a shop in Ruaka.
They met the following day in Kakamega before he went back to Nairobi to tend his shop, but from that day he calls her every day. Morris is the latest man to attempt to woo her away from Jacob. Perhaps the most persistent. This one is probably her fault. He did ask her on that first day in Kakamega if she was in a relationship and she was evasive in her answer. That must have given him courage, because he has been boldly declaring his love for her even though she later told him that she is dating someone else.
He has already asked her to be his girlfriend twice and twice she has declined. She did not want to say no, because she is getting edgy about her relationship with Jacob. If there was a way she could have put off giving the answer while she figured out her situation with Jacob, she could have, But she knew hesitation would give Morris hope, and he would woo her even more aggressively. So she said an outright ‘no’. She was not ready to dump Jacob for a man who is still very much a stranger. She has no romantic feelings for Morris, but it was flattering to be asked.
She does not give any of the men wooing her time, because she is someone’s girlfriend, but she has been giving Morris some attention. When he calls she picks, and she accepts his gifts. He has offered to take her out for dinner several times, but she has refused. He has become a good friend of hers, butshe has to draw the line somewhere. She has been wondering lately whether her relationship with Jacob is denying her a chance to be loved properly, whatever that means.
Morris has given her several gifts already, and taken her on a few dates. When her mother fell sick and was admitted at MP Shah Hospital, it was Morris, not Jacob, who visited her. Morris left Ruaka every evening to see Mrs. Wesonga, Jedidah’s mother. Jedidah introduced him simply as a friend. They have even forged a friendship of sorts. Jacob did not visit even once, even though MP Shah is not very far from the CBD where he works. He did not even visit on the two weekends that Mrs. Wesonga was in hospital. She asked him twice to accompany him to the hospital. The first time, a Friday, he said he was tied up at work. The second time, a Sunday, there was an English Premier League game he could not miss. That is when she realized that he did not want to go, and was deeply hurt.
As she looks at Morris’ name on the caller ID, she makes a decision to firmly end his hopes. She needs to focus on fixing her relationship with Jacob. She will not even ask Jacob about the status of their relationship. She will just enjoy the evening with the love of her life, and actually pay for it. Even if he offers to pay she will insist on paying. Maybe if she starts taking initiative he will be challenged to take control of the relationship and even start formalizing things.
“Hi Morris?” she says as she picks the call.
“Hi dear, how are you?”
She takes a deep breath. She has told him before not to call her ‘dear’.
“I have told you before that I don’t want you to be calling me that, Morris,”
“I am sorry, I keep forgetting. Please forgive me,”
It occurs to her that Jacob rarely apologizes for anything. Why does she love Jacob so much? Why can’t she have feelings for someone who cares, like Morris? Or better still, why can’t Jacob be like Morris?
“Here is the thing Morris. You are a good man, and I consider you a good friend. But we need to slow down the friendship. We cannot be talking every day. We can only check on each other once in a while,”
“Why is that? I really enjoy talking to you,”
“Because my fiancée is not comfortable with our friendship,”
“Yes, Jacob proposed today,”
She can hear him sighing on the other side. It feels bad to have to lie to him, but that is the only way she could think of to make him stop hoping that she will be his girlfriend. She can only hope that Jacob will propose soon, but Jacob doesn’t even know Morris exists. He knows very little about her life and whenever they talk, it is always about him. His job, his ambitions, his church ministry, his football team etc.
“Okay Jedidah, I will not call you again, if that is what you really want. I wish you two all the happiness in the world,”
Jedidah feels like she should tell him that he can call her once in a while, but that might sound like she still wants him.
“Gooday Morris,” she says instead.
“Gooday Jedidah,” he replies and disconnects the call.
Jacob will be here any moment now, so she decides to go to the bathroom and retouch her make-up. He needs to see her at her best. As she is leaving the ladies room, Jacob calls her. She assumes that he is already in the restaurant, so she decides not to pick.
She sees him immediately she steps into the restaurant from the ladies room, and her blood freezes in her veins. Sitting opposite him is his ex-girlfriend Charlotte. Jedidah slips back into the bathroom and calls her best friend Consolata. But Consolata does not pick.
It is Consolata who stalked Jacob and found Charlotte in his old Facebook posts and photos. That was back when they were in first year, when he started telling her that he loved her. Consolata even found out that they had dated for two years before she dumped him for a wealthy old man. Jacob has no idea that she knows his ex-girlfriend.
She calls Jacob and tells him that she will be late by thirty minutes. Then she steps back into the restaurant and finds a corner table where she can observe them without risking being seen. After a few minutes, Jacob says something to Charlotte and they both laugh. She leans over and plants a kiss on his lips. Jacob places his hands on her cheeks and kisses her back.
Jedidah is shocked. Why would Jacob do that to her? If he wants to dump her, why couldn’t he just come alone? What has she done to him for him to want to humiliate her like this? She feels like screaming.
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