Ella’s finally in a relationship, something she’s longed for forever. Then her sister comes to her with a fantastical story about her boyfriend’s alleged infidelity. When Ella confronts him about it, all hell breaks loose and Daniel leaves. Is this how their love story ends? What will she do about the fallout with her sister? Start Ella and Daniel’s story here. Lonely Eyes Part 1 – Hello, Chaos!
Ella rubbed her eyes for the umpteenth time. She’d try to hold off responding to the itch but would inevitably wind up rubbing her gritty eyes. Her eyes had been through a lot. First, the crying jag that had lasted the better part of the night, then this itch she wasn’t strong enough to ignore. She was certain her eyes were the red and swollen combo of weed enthusiasts. What she wouldn’t give for a joint right now.
The surrounding people, led by her aunties, kept giving her concerned glances. With her luck, she knew, just knew that they assumed her eyes were the windows to her inner sadness courtesy of her prolonged unmarried state. She was at her cousin’s Ayee, a traditional ceremony in which a man’s family officially visits his fiancee’s family to ask for her hand in marriage. Guests were seated in a white tent with plastic chairs arranged in circular rings, with the couple and their immediate families in the inner rings.
She couldn’t take their concerned stares another minute. Plus, from her vantage point, she had a clear view of the bride and groom who kept giving each other playful glances that just gutted her. Then there was the matter of their mothers bustling about, love and pride on their faces. She had to leave. She pasted on a fake smile and got up to leave through one of the many openings in the tent.
Ella slid out, swallowing a sigh of relief when she came face to face with her siblings and three of their cousins. Great. They’d been laughing, stopping only when they saw her. Of course, they were having a good time. The entire world, with the marked exception of Ella, was having a great time. Fuck them.
Her brother approached her, slow and careful, a smile on his face like he was afraid he’d spook her. “Hey.”
She had to behave; it would simply not do to have her cousins pick up on the tension. They’d go digging and if they found anything, would gladly broadcast their findings. It was bad enough that her sister had blared her dubious story to everyone at game night. She did not need more people in her business.
Huey gave her a hug. Ella allowed it. To preserve appearances, not because she desperately needed someone to please, please hold her tight. She conjured the fake smile again and hugged the rest of them, excluding Amy, who walked away pretending to answer her phone.
Ella tried her best to summon the most normal, agreeable version of her for the obligatory small talk. Someone launched into a couple of the day’s back story, how they met, the proposal, and how lovey-dovey they were, and Ella wanted to sit on the grass and cry right there.
She’d had that; a cute couple story with romantic bits guaranteed to tug at the heartstrings of even the most cynical. She’d nuked it. Now she may lose the love of her life with zero assurance that she could get something similar in the future.
Ella was not the kind of girl men pursued. She didn’t know why. All she knew was that even as teenagers, boys always gravitated towards Amy. It didn’t matter what she did; the results remained the same. She had always been on the bigger side and had at one point assumed that that was it. She’d gotten on an aggressive weight loss plan, which had on occasion worked. Even slimmer, she’d not garnered interest. Dressing more fashionably, as much as her wispy paycheck allowed, had not helped, and neither had the beauty products she’d invested in. Over time, she’d accepted her body, celebrated it, and stopped with the punishing diets. She’d even come around to the idea that maybe she’d never experience that kind of love, that she was destined for a solitary life.
Then Daniel happened and changed everything. Everything.
Two aunts, her mom’s sisters, joined the group, drawing Ella’s attention back. They looked so much like her mom. Her breathing hitched. They enveloped her in soft, all-encompassing warm talcum-powder hugs. She would have broken down in a flood of tears, but for the comments accompanying the hugs, “Ella, you know we’re waiting for your turn, huh?”
The other added, “Where’s your lawyer?”
“You know how it is after elections,” she joked and there was a scattering of laughs. “He had to work, but he’ll be here next time.”
Another cousin joined their little crowd, and her mom immediately put her arm around her. Ella had to force herself to look away. She turned to find Amy’s gaze glued to their aunt and cousin. Their eyes met and for a minute, there was a complete ceasefire and it felt like everything stopped as they just missed their mom together.
Her mom would hate the fact that they were fighting, Ella thought. If there was something she should have learnt from her mom’s death, it should have been how quickly time flies, and how important it is not to sweat the small stuff and risk having them destroy your relationship. Those early months after the burial had been excruciating. She’d lived in perpetual fear of something happening to Amy and Huey too, and now here she was, letting precious time slip by without trying to fix things.
She should be a fucking adult and talk to her siblings. Letting things fester was a recipe for even greater disaster. The only problem was she didn’t know what to say. Either she believed her sister or she didn’t, and both would have significant implications. Something caught her attention, and she turned to find Huey standing next to her. This was the moment of truth.
Ella pretended to go to the bathroom, and then used that opportunity to plot her escape. It was cowardly; she knew that, but God…
She could tell Huey was planning something from the soft smiles he kept giving her. He was definitely thinking of a way to diffuse the tension between the three of them. While she appreciated the help, the panic flooding her insides was witness enough that while the spirit was willing; the body was ever so weak.
She was far too raw after an entire day spent celebrating some other couple and fielding questions about her unmarried status and phantom boyfriend. Plus, she hadn’t seen her aunts together like that in a long time, since the burial really and it was getting to her. Seeing her mom’s sisters with their kids was enough. She would not add some emotionally charged conversation with her siblings to the day.
Whatever the shortcomings of the afternoon, it had two things going for it. One, great food and two, it reminded her just how important her relationship with Daniel was. She couldn’t just let go of the first good thing she’d gotten in a long time. Life is too short, she decided.
She silenced her vibrating phone. It was Huey. Of course, it was Huey. She’d text him with a passable explanation later. First, sort out her relationship with Daniel, and then she’d figure things out with her siblings. Content with her tentative plan and preferred order of events, Ella slipped out of the venue as covertly as any super spy she’d seen mirrored in the movies.
Ella took a matatu back to her place. She walked from the bus stop listening to a playlist of Kenyan love songs that had shown remarkable success in picking her up in the past. She planned out her speech and counterarguments throughout the walk, during her shower, as she got ready and on the matatu to his place.
She knew he’d likely not be home, but she had his keys and would spend the time strengthening her arguments for why he had to forgive her. The last time she’d let herself into his place while he was out, Daniel had been furious, insisting that the key was only to be used for emergencies. She’d never made that mistake again. This was different. It was literally an emergency. She was certain even he would agree.
Ella had her laptop with her, which meant she could get some work done while she waited. She worked for an online audio transcription and data entry service that always had work on the portal. It was gruelling work, and the pay was most accurately described as poverty wages, but it kept a roof over her head and warm food in her belly. Yes, she was always worried about her finances, the only difference being the fluctuating intensity, but she got by. That was enough. She knew too many people who were worse off.
Ella checked her accounts to see if she could afford to order takeout. His taste skewed expensive, which would mean digging into her rainy-day fund. He liked this Ethiopian restaurant where an average meal cost was close to what she earned per month, on a good month. Anyway, what exemplified a rainy day more than her relationship was on the brink of collapse? She did the math, rearranging her finances to make sure she could afford it. She’d just order smaller portions than he usually did. That would work. She would have to put in a few more hours of work for about three weeks to replace it though. Not having some just-in-case money was one of her biggest sources of anxiety, so she’d have to buckle down and put it back as soon as possible.
Still, if ever there was a worthwhile way to spend some of her emergency cash, this was it. This was a bona fide emergency. Plus, Ethiopian food was eaten communally. Eating together was as good a place as any to start rebuilding their relationship.
She got to his place and made the order, then got busy working. The order was delivered and still, Daniel wasn’t home. It was 10 p.m. on a Saturday night and she was getting worried, but she talked herself out of it, put on her headphones, and went back to work.
The loud closing of the door startled her, and she looked up to find his angry eyes on her. She looked at the time: five minutes past midnight. Ella stood up, forcing a smile on her face. “Hey.”
“What are you doing here?” Daniel asked, stripping his clothes off as he walked to the bedroom. She followed him, just in time to see him take off his shirt.
“I missed your sexy abs?” She joked, trying for lightness.
He dropped the t-shirt he’d picked up, entirely unamused. He stripped off his trousers and pulled on a pair of shorts, then walked out of the bedroom and headed back to the sitting room.
She smiled when she realized he’d done nothing to hide his glorious naked chest. That was a good sign, she decided.
“I came to apologize for last night,” Ella said, moving around the kitchen, setting things up so she could warm the food.
“I already ate.”
She turned to face him. His spacious house dwarfed hers multiple times. She was in the open floor-plan kitchen. He stood in the living room, face set in stone. This would have been so much easier at her house. Physical distance increased emotional distance.
“Come on, it’s that Ethiopian place you like.”
She sighed. He was going to make this hard. Okay. She’d come prepared. She poured the various soups and vegetables into oven-friendly bowls, placed them in the oven, turned it on, and hoped for the best. They would eat the Injera cold. She wasn’t going to risk ruining it by warming it.
She walked to him and placed her hand over his pecs. He liked it when she expressed a naked appreciation for his body.
“I’m sorry about jana.” Ella started. “I was having a crazy day, and I took it out on you.”
Daniel stepped back from her touch. “It’s not about yesterday. It’s about you letting your sister control you.”
“That’s who told you the Westy story, right? She tells you something and you automatically assume it’s true?”
“I didn’t assume it was true. I asked you and instead of answering you, just lost your shit.”
“What would you do if I rocked up in here and asked you in some accusing tone where you were earlier today? Tell me you wouldn’t be pissed.”
She was silent, and then she sighed. “I would be pissed.”
He shrugged and tried to walk past her.
She put her hand on his abs, and he stopped. She looked up at him. “Yeah, but if you came to apologize, I would hear you out.”
“The difference between us is I trust you and you trust your sister. You let her control you.”
“That’s not true.”
“She told you lies about me and you immediately believed her, knowing full well that she doesn’t like me. She’s never liked me and you still listened to her. Do you know why I don’t come for your family things? Because of her. That’s why. I see no reason to put myself in a toxic situation like that. You just don’t get it.”
“She may not be your biggest fan, but she wouldn’t just lie. Maybe she misunderstood or something, but she wouldn’t just lie. That’s not her.”
“Once again, you’re taking her side,” Daniel said, storming off.
“I’m not taking her side.” Ella almost yelled, exasperated.
The oven beeped. She looked at him, then at the oven, and decided to rescue the food. She’d paid too steep a price for it.
She put all the food on the counter. God, it smelled great. She was going to eat even if he didn’t; she decided.
She turned to find him watching her from the kitchen door.
“The only way this works is if you stop bringing your sister into our relationship. You can’t be out there talking about me with someone who hates me. It doesn’t make sense, not if you like me and want this to work.”
“Okay. No interference from my sister. Our relationship is ours.”
“You need to set some boundaries and stick to them, or this will not work.”
“Yeah,” Ella whispered. “I get it.”
Silence occupied the space between them.
“Okay. I forgive you.”
They stood staring at each other for a beat. The great smell wafted up to her, drawing her attention, and she turned to it, shoving down the unease she was still feeling. “Are you going to eat now?”
“Depends. What’s on the menu?” He asked, walking towards her, a playful look on his face. He crowded behind her so that her back was squeezed up with his front. His hand slid under her vest, cupping her naked breast.
“All you can eat, baby.”
“That’s what I like to hear.”
He pinched her nipple, and she flinched, instinctively moving her hand to cover his. She’d told him her nipples were really sensitive and the whole pain thing didn’t do it for her. Multiple times. He was likely just really aroused. That’s why it had slipped his mind. Ella couldn’t fault him for being so turned on by her, could she? She’d remind him next time. No reason to upset their newly brokered peace.
Will the new terms of engagement be sufficient to restore the relationship? Find out what happens next here Lonely Eyes Part 5- Dark Clouds Everywhere, Storm On The Horizon
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