Nancy was a wreck that Saturday night on the video call. She barely uttered a word, every time she lifted up her face, fresh tears ran down her eyes. Frank, Joy and I hugged, wishing we could spread the love all the way down to South Africa.
After about an hour of silence punctuated by sobs and frequent rubbing of our noses, she finally hung up. We didn’t joke about her newly developed South African accent. She always made a point to sound like Sho Madjozi when speaking Kiswahili. Before this, we had dared her to get coloured braids and that’s what we were all looking forward to.
Nancy and Bethel were the couple I knew would actualize my dreams. The dream of being a bridesmaid. She was smitten by him from their first encounter. He was not so tall, dark chocolate and handsome. His demeanour was impressive. He only spoke when it was relevant, laughed softly and gushed over Nancy’s intellect and beauty the few times he indulged in our conversations.
At first, we brandished him a snob. What kind of man exchanges greetings, sips on his coffee and makes subtle comments about the weather? I mean, like it was our tradition, we always went out on a date with each other’s boyfriends or girlfriends for ‘vetting’. To be approved by the committee, we weighed the fatness of the wallets of the men. For the ladies, we really were invested in how they chewed. But Bethel, he didn’t even comment on my beads, I was sure to make a fuss but he was just blind.
Bethel and his family planned to come for Nyuombo. Dowry payment is such a ceremony in western Kenya. Our parents were elated and full of anticipation. Unfortunately, Covid-19 struck in March, just before April when the event was supposed to happen.
Due to the travel bans and lockdowns imposed on Nairobi particularly, it was impossible for us to travel upcountry. Besides that, large gatherings were prohibited and the next best option was to wait. We hoped the restrictions would ease up sooner rather than later and other plans for the church wedding were underway.
Bethel was quite the reserved type, so he never actively participated in the wedding preparations, especially the church wedding. Just before the lockdown was lifted, Nancy tested positive for pregnancy. She obviously wanted the wedding accelerated before her bump started showing but Bethel was of a different opinion.
We all expected that they’d resolve this issue within a short time. Unexpectedly, they seemed to have disagreed beyond the point of agreeing. They put a hold on the newly proposed dates and asked our parents for some more time to sort out some issues. We knew things weren’t okay, but it was the least of our expectations that they’d drag on for that long.
Bethel wanted the wedding called off so that they could focus on the child’s delivery. Nancy wanted her child born in a legal marriage, and an Attorney General’s wedding was not cutting it for her. None of them was willing to compromise and bend to the needs of the other.
Eventually, Nancy made it crystal clear that if there wasn’t any church wedding before the child, they’d have to call off the marriage. We certainly didn’t see things escalating to this point, but their next steps left us in anguish. Nancy went ahead to terminate the pregnancy against Bethel’s wish. He immediately called off their relationship and they treated each other like sworn enemies.
We watched in shock as their relationship crumbled. In December 2020, Nancy informed us of her scholarship and plans to move to South Africa. She was devastated after their break-up but preferred not to talk or share.
A month after she moved to Johannesburg, Nancy shared that she and Bethel had decided to rekindle their romance and work things out. Given her commitment to her Master’s, they hoped the time and distance will help them rebuild their lost love. It was a surprising move, but we supported them anyways because that’s what family does.
A few days before that Saturday night, Nancy casually shared that she hasn’t been able to reach Bethel on call the previous day. While she made some jokes about it, she seemed really bothered by the situation. Two days later, Bethel hadn’t returned her calls nor had he left her a message.
Nancy resorted to reaching out to their mutual friends to ask about her fiancé’s whereabouts. Most of their friends were keen to mention Bethel’s appreciation for privacy, hence the reason he mustn’t have shared his whereabouts. Alarmed, she tried to put a call to one of his sisters, who also didn’t know about his whereabouts.
The next morning, Bethel’s colleague reached out to Nancy. The institution had been called concerning one of their employees who went in for minor surgery, but sadly didn’t make it. It was the third day since he had died. Miles away from home, Nancy dealt with the anguish of lost love. He never communicated with anyone about his medical condition, let alone a heads-up that he was due for surgery.
We felt Nancy’s anguish. Two weeks later, before she could fly back into the country, Bethel was laid to rest at his rural home. She felt unseen in her pain, and the only consolation was the virtual hugs and video calls we shared every night.
Bethel’s family intentionally sidelined her in the burial plans because of the abortion. His mother who had only become aware of the situation was bitter about Nancy’s decision to terminate her offspring, the closest tie to her now-dead son.
Her faith in God had dwindled and when she stared into space, you could see a longing, laden with rue. If she will ever be capable of loving again is the question that can’t be answered. She has mourned, then wailed and wept.
Since then, we’ve tried to set up dates, and on every occasion, she has turned these men into unpaid therapists. Atheists too maybe, because she lays bare how the Lord snatched away love from her.
“Isn’t God love? Why then did He deprive me of my right to love the man I love?”
My guess is whoever answers this question, might drag her out of her misery.
Gone In 60 Seconds By Henry Githaiga
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