The girl was spiteful and she didn’t know it or did she?
I met Jolene during the second week after joining campus. We hit it off mainly because we liked the same thing. We were also both pretty and light-skinned. Before Jolene, I had never been part of a mature friendship. This was partly because I moved around a lot and the rest because it took a while before I became vulnerable to anyone. However, Jolene showed me how to be vulnerable. This was by her constantly initiating topics about her past boyfriends and occasionally letting me in on her darkest secrets. I liked her for that and much because she broke the walls I had built over the years, from the fear of not being able to fit in.
Days passed and our friendship grew stronger. It would take only months before we crossed the invisible bonds, of race, colour and common likes that had once joined us. We were just blood shy away from becoming relatives considering now we referred to each other as sisters. We also cooked together, matched the outfits we would wear and even analysed our potential boyfriends based on haves and have-nots. We didn’t even think of money because most students on the campus were broke and this meant few options. Think looks, ambition and of course the faculty that the potential boyfriends belonged to.
We liked the engineering guys. Mostly because their title communicated smartness, and this was the only place you could find the dark, tall and handsome package. Therefore aside from constantly hanging around the vicinity, we made sure to make quick friends who would introduce us to the more good-looking guys we had eyed but had dared to tell no one.
Our plan was working and in the course of the following weeks, our network grew. You could say we were popular because then we started meeting and making friends outside the engineering department, which was once considered our gold mine. Why limit our options right?
I also started paying visits to my girlfriends who were in the arts department. For one, I did it because we connected over similar discussions, and secondly because this is where different guys would frequent. I didn’t mention how I relished being the new face in the group. Because after a few visits, “the light skin girl” kind of became my brand. Jolene was busy too and she had met a few acquaintances from her own department, which reassured us that the universe was conspiring to keep us in the limelight.
Life was good and thus far no one could dare say otherwise. Jolene and I met in the evenings to compare notes and also to low-key compete on who had met the most guys in a day. Of course, none of us would dare admit that we were competing. That was too petty. But only a deaf ear could miss out on the constant bickering over whose acquaintances were more good-looking or refined or well-off and connected.
These types of arguments would go on for so long until we started hiding bits of information from one another for the fear of being on the losing end. Jolene did so under the guise that some details were basically unimportant while I did because a certain rendezvous I had come to be part of was spicier if it remained a secret.
Marvin was his name. I had met him during one of those visits I was now frequently making to my other friends’ hostel. But no sooner had we exchanged looks did we start hanging out. Right off the bat, I knew that Marvin would be the secret I would never let anyone uncover. You could say it is because he was dark, tall and had Asian eyes that dared not reveal much than they needed to. Or maybe it’s because he stole my number from one of my artsy friends – who was somehow his girlfriend at the time, then started messaging me anonymously. I liked the mystery and he had that going for himself.
It wouldn’t take long before I discovered that he was the one texting me. But then before my dopamine could recede he made me feel like the most priced gem that he dared not own. I wondered why he thought I was out of his league when he had all these qualities going on for himself. Although not an engineer, he was the most popular guy in the school. He was also the most coveted, which is something I would come to realise later from how I would hear girls mention his name as if trying to outdo one another on who knew him better. In such discussions, I wouldn’t contribute much. In fact, as far as everyone around me was concerned I didn’t know the guy.
Days went on and his narrative didn’t change. We would pass each other like strangers if we happened to meet in public then laugh like best friends seconds after, via text. That was the era of Safaricom’s unlimited texts and so we knew we could say to each other all we wanted and still have the means to text some more if something else came up.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder they say and truly mine did. I had gone past wanting to keep him a secret to wanting everyone to know about him and me. Not once had I been tempted to reveal him to Jolene and I hated that I had to hold back. But then sooner than I thought my wish came true.
I can never forget that day because it was after I had made a fuss claiming that he was hiding “us” because he was a player. Not willing to respond to or deny the accusation, he had left my texts unanswered making me feel like I was in a boxing ring with my hands tied. I mean I was full-on fighting mode and he’d just gone MIA leaving me with a wounded ego and making me question my decisions.
But then a day later, there he stood. At the front of the door was where he leaned with a sultry smile that made his Asian eyes squint beautifully revealing the faint lines on the corners of his eyes. A subtle dimple revealed itself at one side of his cheek and looking at his masculine form, I could not question if he was the guy for me. Marvin was enchanting and above all, he was my secret. He leaned forward to hug me and I met him halfway feeling like a small girl with a tiptoe on it.
A month went by. Jolene was oblivious of my secret and Marvin was coming over only when gossipers were not around. His friends knew me but that’s because they were his closest and once they were sworn to secrecy none could utter a word unless given permission by their master. I was feeling myself and enjoying every bit of this honeymoon stage. But who knew that reality held something else in store.
Marvin and I had planned to meet on a certain evening before proceeding to a house party that was being hosted not far from the school premises. I was delighted, anxious and looking forward to it since it was our first public gathering. You wouldn’t believe this was years BC (before corona) but the feeling was still the same as if our destination hid unknown discoveries, a hint of danger and unknown risk. That to me made the whole evening even more special and I just couldn’t wait to get into some trouble. But first I had to fetch Marvin.
He wasn’t in his room. Had I come earlier? I asked myself. I pulled out my phone to check what time we’d agreed to meet and seeing that I was on time, I did the next practical thing. I asked around and one guy confirmed that he’d seen him.
“Marvin ameshaishia kwa party ya kina Mo,” he said absentmindedly. I assumed that one of his rowdy friends had dragged him to the party early. However, something from this guy’s tone told me to keep prying and so I asked him if Marvin had left with someone or not. I couldn’t believe my ears. At the mention of Jolene and Marvin in one sentence, I shut down. Hurriedly I composed myself and then headed towards Mo’s house which is where the party was at. I was praying that my assumptions wouldn’t come true because then I’d have to confront my friend and boyfriend then myself which wasn’t easy.
As thoughts kept running in my mind I couldn’t help but wonder when had they met? Why had Marvin never mentioned Jolene to me and why had they left together? Was he cheating on me? There was only one way to find out.
Mo’s house wasn’t far from Marvin’s and although the night was approaching my focus and sense of direction were as good as of a guy answering a bootie call. So I reached and without caring to make small talk with the people who were at the door I darted inside. Jolene and Marvin had all the crowd’s attention; dancing and grooving as if they’d just arrived from the 90s.
Jolene had Marvin’s cap on while Marvin seemed to be having the time of his life with no cap and no girlfriend – whom he seemed to have long forgotten – in sight. One step, two step, I started out towards them when suddenly the lights went out. But that didn’t happen before I saw Marvin. Instantly people had their torches on and as I tried to locate where my two targets were, I saw Marvin approach me. He had on this silly smile and I could’ve wiped it off if only I was tall to be sure of the impact. But before I could let out a word I heard, “Before you say anything let’s go. I will explain.” I too was eagerly waiting to hear of what emergency could’ve befallen him that he had to leave for the party without me. Then he gave me the explanation.
Turns out Marvin and Jolene had met weeks earlier after Jolene and I started drifting apart and started establishing different friendships. Jolene took a liking to Marvin but he could only reciprocate with friendship since I was in the picture. To Marvin, Jolene was his friend although only a fool could miss how excited she got whenever Marvin was around. But when I asked Marvin what Jolene meant to him, he just brushed it off and made light of the situation so I could get more jealous. I hated this about Marvin but I confirmed that he was telling the truth because I had done some background checking without his knowledge.
Nevertheless, the explanation that it was no big deal going with her to the party and leaving me behind didn’t give me the consolation I needed. My bubble was burst and with it, a bit of trust was broken.
Jolene didn’t hide that she didn’t acknowledge our relationship. To her, I was as good as a friend and it would only take a couple of convincing tricks and girly charms to show me that she meant more to Marvin than I did. I was uncomfortable. So I started avoiding any encounters that would mean Marvin, Jolene and I would be under the same roof. Marvin and I still hang out though, even though most times we ended up arguing and fighting over Jolene. Luckily, the unlimited texts would come to our aid a few moments later, and we would be planning for our next adventure.
But there was this particular time. A week had gone by without us fighting or talking and I wondered if we’d entered the ghosting period. His stubbornness and ego could only be surpassed by mine and so no one even dared say hi to check on the other. So I went along with it. But as I was busy doing some chores and trying not to check if he’d texted, I happened to pass by in the kitchen area where Jolene was busy washing utensils. Instantly, she let out a laugh. This was the type of laugh that can only be compared to the kind of silence people assume when you catch them talking about you. I paused to acknowledge her presence. Upon seeing me, she greeted me in a manner you could say was hoity-toity then proceeded to ask how my relationship was fairing.
Apparently, Marvin had paid her a visit the previous evening and they had shared some drinks with friends who now believed that Jolene and him were in a relationship. It was by luck that I happened to hear the news from my arts friend who the previous night had been cursing and letting us know that aside from the good looks Marvin had nothing else to offer. So at that moment when Jolene asked about my relationship, I knew what Jolene was hinting at. But I couldn’t give her the satisfaction. “Well, we talked this morning,” that’s all I said as I turned around to leave. “Why didn’t you come together last night. He was at my place and we had so much fun.” She couldn’t miss a beat.
“I wasn’t feeling well…” But before I could continue making excuses, a thought crossed my mind so I responded. “Hey, by the way, Alex has been on my radar. I’m sure you wouldn’t mind if him and I started hanging out. I had to ask because you know you once had a crush on the guy.”
At the mention of Alex, both confidence and composure escaped her. I pretended not to notice by rinsing the basin that I had held on to so tightly when she’d asked if Marvin and I were okay. She went completely silent and she didn’t say anything. I let out a joyless laugh. I reassured her that I was only joking and that I had said that to see her reaction then turned to leave. It is true, at first I had said so to see her reaction. But then her spite made me want to make due on my promise. I wondered, Would she like the taste of her own medicine?
As I went back to my room I also considered my relationship with Marvin. I knew the little trust that was left between Marvin and I was already gone and so without further hesitation, I texted him. “Can we talk?” He responded instantly as if he knew what I would say next.
“We should take a break.” He responded.
None of us was fond of beating around the bush and so I responded, “Yeah, I think we should.”
We broke up just around the same time the semester was almost over. In only a few weeks everyone would be busy with exams. This came to me as a relief because I figured my mind would be too occupied to care if Marvin was visiting Jolene or not. But, more than Marvin who I tried to avoid whenever I was out, Jolene didn’t leave my mind. Then there was the insinuation I had blurted out right there in the kitchen which kept provoking me and igniting some malevolent instincts that I didn’t know existed. Don’t they say give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar? Perhaps, the coming break would bring some insight, I deduced. But I knew one thing for sure. Only time would tell if Caesar really deserves what Caesar was due to get.
I am a writer with interest in hair, beauty and fashion. I also like telling stories, but most of all I enjoy listening and reading them. If I'm not doing any of the above, I will be trying to crack a game of chess or monopoly. My biggest fear is being ordinary.