Susan stared at her best friend from across the room.
He was smiling into the face of an elderly woman he had just picked a glass of wine for. Kuuku’s generosity and thoughtfulness were what endeared him to her.
The woman said something which made him laugh. She felt more than heard him laugh. He had this thunderous laughter all his friends called sikafo (wealthy) laughter. When he laughed like that, he made you feel as if you’re the only one in the world who could make him laugh like that.
It was endearing.
There was that word again. Endeared and now endearing. What was wrong with her?
Kuuku was her friend. She shouldn’t forget that she had a boyfriend. Talking about her boyfriend. She turned and saw him chatting with one of the servers at the event. A moment later, her brows came down when she saw him tap the girl’s butts suggestively and gritted her teeth. Emma didn’t care about her and always made sure she knew it. She was tired of this.
For the 6 months they’d been dating, all he’d done was hurt her. The guy who told her that he was so different from all the guys she’d been with turned out to be the worst. She’d confided in him that her family was fed up with her dating different guys and didn’t want this one too to end. Even though he was hurting her, she had to always pretend she was happy. That she was happy to be his girlfriend. A ruse she kept only when there were others around.
When they were together, during the few times she agreed to meet him, she was usually angry. He made her angry with his patronizing behavior. Talking to her always annoyed him and she was always glad to leave. They were no longer dating. She’d broken up with him months ago but had begged him not to let it out yet. If they could keep this up for another 6 months, her family wouldn’t be so condescending about her ability to stick to one man.
She turned towards Kuuku and met the disapproving face of her roommate. Shid. Ruki was going to make things worse.
“Can you go and tell Romeo to get his hands off those girls before I cut his hand off?” Ruki said menacingly.
“Cut his hand off? I never knew you to be so bloodthirsty,” Susan burst out laughing. A laughter that shriveled faster than a tiger’s fight with a porcupine. She sighed.
“What’s going on Susan? I’ve asked you severally that are you guys still dating and you always say yes. Is that your definition of dating?” Ruki quizzed as she pointed her hand at the spectacle a few meters away.
“Lower your voice, Ruki,” Susan pleaded. She grabbed her friend by the hand and pulled her to a corner. “Look, I know I haven’t been truthful to you. You see, he and I broke up 6 months ago.”
“Ruki, shhhh. Not so loud.”
“Stop shushing me. You broke up with him 6 months ago and you never told me? Why?”
Susan opened her mouth to respond but the words wouldn’t come out. She leaned on the wall behind her, looking at the people in the room.
“Ruki, look at all these people. My parents, my uncles and aunties, other extended family members, all of them want one thing for me. They all want to see me also celebrating just like this but I’ve failed at doing that one thing they always wished me which is to get married.”
“So if you don’t marry, does it mean you lose value as a member of this family or what? I don’t understand.”
“Ruki, I’m 32 years and have had 5 other failed relationships. 5 men I was so sure of yet what happened? How do I tell them that this one I assured them was my last didn’t work too?”
Ruki was about to inquire further but a loud sound interrupted her.
A SERVER HAD tripped and fallen causing the tray on which were some hors d’oeuvres to fall. Emma smirked and got up from where he was seated only to come face to face with Kuuku.
“Apologize to her,” Kuuku said softly.
“Hey, Kuuku right? I should apologize to her? What for?” Emma leered.
“For causing her to trip. I saw you deliberately stick out your leg to trip her,” Kuuku replied.
The people at the table next to them stood up.
“But why would you do that, Emma?” Susan’s dad, Allswell asked.
“Sir, I don’t know what he’s talking about,” Emma hastily tried to assure him.
“He’s lying,” the server shakily said as she stood up and smoothened her shirt. Kuuku handed her his handkerchief which she accepted with a grateful smile. “He was making advances towards me and I told him I don’t like that. He even hit my butts. I went to the table to bring some finger foods and saw his foot too late.”
Susan and Ruki got there at the tail end of her accusation. Susan glared at Emma.
“Hey babes, don’t look at me like that. This girl is clearly lying.” He tried to give her a winsome smile which clearly didn’t work as her first words to him all evening, were, “oh stop lying Emmanuel Abrampah. I saw you hitting her butts. Knowing how vindictive you are when you don’t get what you want, I’m not surprised that you decided to exact such a childish revenge on her.”
“Susan,” her mother, Sellasie, sounded shocked. “This is your fiancé you’re talking to like that? At least hear his side of the story before jumping into conclusion.”
Emma laughed briefly. “Fiancé? Susan, haven’t you told your parents yet?”
“Don’t you dare Emmanuel,” she warned him with a note of desperation in her voice. Ruki put her hand on her friend’s shoulder.
Kuuku’s eyes narrowed when he saw how that question flustered her. For the past 1 year, he’d seen how his best friend from SHS had moved from a happy-go-lucky girl to become a pale shadow of herself. He’d hit a brick wall anytime he asked her what was going on. He could come to her anytime, any day, anywhere with his problems especially his myriad issues with girls and she would listen to him but anytime he asked about her love life with this low life, she’d clam up. There was something really going on and he was hoping he was about to find out.
“Dare? I dare you to tell your family what you’ve been keeping from them for 6 months. Can you?”
Emmanuel was lapping the attention like a leech. He’d chased after her for 3 years. 3 long years and she’d stretched and spun him as if he didn’t deserve to be in the same room with her. Yet, when they started dating, there she was, telling him what to do and whom to talk to. He couldn’t have his little fun because Ms Woman here wouldn’t allow it. He loved getting the upper hand over her and oh he was going to relish every minute of this.
“I dare you to tell your family why we’ve been pretending to be dating for the past 6 months when we broke up so long ago?”
Sellasie gasped. Susan closed her eyes over tears and that’s when Kuuku stepped in.
“That’s because she and I have been secretly dating,” he said as he quickly pulled a shocked Susan into his arms. He saw the protest forming on her lips and gave her a quick kiss on the lips. He watched in satisfaction as that shut her up.
Emma was shocked. “That’s not true! He’s lying!”
Kuuku snorted. “Coming from someone who tripped a server just because she rebuffed your advances. That’s rich.”
“Listen, you cannot…”
“Enough!” Allswell thundered. “Listen, young man, I have never liked you because of how slick you are but tolerated you because of my daughter. If you say you are no longer together then you’re no longer welcome here.”
The look on Emma’s face would have been comical if not for the fact that nobody was in a laughing mood. He beat a hasty retreat after that, annoyed with himself for playing into the hands of Kuuku and also, based on the fact that the server had left the small gathering to go call a hefty bouncer. Emma didn’t want to stick around and find out if the guy wanted to trip him up as his punishment.
Kuuku turned to Allswell. “I’m in love with your daughter sir. I’m sure for all my life and I know she’s been scared to tell you herself but I just want her to know that I’m all hers. I’m sorry you had to find out this way.”
“That’s alright son. It wasn’t the best way to find out but it’s good news. Everyone, come and join us drink a toast to Kuuku and Susan. You guys will be marrying soon right?”
Susan heard that question like a blow in her gut. She’d been lost in a mist after the kiss. She’d lost all train of thought and could hear sounds but not the rest. Her dad’s question split the air and she came out of her “trance.”
“Marrying?” she repeated.
“Yes, honey. Marriage to me,” Kuuku looked deeply into her eyes. “I love you,” he kissed her once again and that fog that only his kisses created came once again.
2 HOURS LATER, Susan locked her door in Kuuku’s face. What game was he playing? Yes, Emma had deliberately let the truth out. She even suspected that was what he’d been doing all along so that he could get whatever revenge he wanted on exact on her but for Kuuku to tell her family that they were getting married?
She opened her door to find his sparkling eyes trained on her.
“Yes, honey. Marriage.”
“You’re not serious.”
“I’ve never been more serious about anything like this. I love you.”
She stared at him quietly.
“You saved me from embarrassment. You know what Emmanuel was about to do and you did what any good friend would do. Thank you.”
She ignored the protest forming on his lips and closed the door. The key turning in the lock told him he wasn’t welcome.
She heard her phone ringing and went to pick it from where she had put it on the coffee table. It was her dad. She inhaled and exhaled slowly before answering the call.
“SO YOU WERE pretending all this time?” Allswell was shocked.
“I’m sorry dad.”
“But, why would you lie about dating him when you weren’t?”
“I just didn’t want you to feel disappointed that another relationship of mine had failed. I felt like a failure and I didn’t want you to know,” she said on a sob.
Selassie enveloped her in a hug. “You’re silly, do you know that? So another relationship didn’t work. You regroup, learn your lessons and enter into the next one with the wealth of experiences you have.”
“But mum you don’t understand. Joyce married a virgin. Lucky married the second man she dated so why am I, their big sister, finding it so tough to find love?”
“Are you Joyce or Lucky?”
“No mummy but…”
“But nothing. I have never compared you to your siblings and I will never do so. Each of you has her path in life and as a mother, mine is to guide only when I’m allowed to. Let those who marry first marry and let those who marry last also marry. At the end of the day, everyone marries. If it’s not in your destiny to marry then so be it.” They hugged.
“Suzzy,” her dad called out. “Your boyfriend is here.”
Susan frowned. What was Emma doing here? Then she turned and saw Kuuku framed in the doorway. She groaned internally. Will he leave her alone? He was going to make her family think he was serious.
“Thanks uncle Allswell. I want to talk to Susan please. She doubts my love for her.”
“Why am I not surprised?” Selassie chuckled. “It’s been obvious to everyone but her how much you love her but she was stuck in the-,” she turned to Allswell. “What is the word these kids use when they don’t want to think of someone in a romantic way?”
“Zoning,” Kuuku replied helpfully.
“Exactly. She was stuck zoning you when you two were made for each other.”
“Mummy, I’m right here. Stop talking as if I’m not. And for your information, Kuuku and I aren’t together as in dating or anything.”
“And who says we don’t know?” her dad snorted. “Kuuku has been moping around here watching you with lovesick eyes as you dropped one guy for another. If you two were an item, we would have gotten to know a long time.”
It was Kuuku’s turn to squirm. “Susan, let me talk to you please.”
Susan nodded and followed him. He walked over to the corridor between the living room and living area and leaned on an armoire staring at her. She was so confused. Things had shifted from A to H and then to M in such short a time that she felt dizzy.
“Do you love me?” Kuuku asked quietly. Susan’s head lifted from her absent-minded perusal of the brown tiles on the ground.
“Of course I do.”
“As just a friend?”
She was quiet. “It’s not that I don’t love you that way or don’t want to be anything more than friends but it’s just that we’ve got this very good friendship going and I don’t want to jeopardize that. You mean so much to me that it’ll kill me if we ended things and couldn’t be friends like that again.”
Kuuku smiled. “We will always be friends.”
Susan felt deflated. Friends? Wasn’t he even going to fight her love? Why did she want him to, she wondered.
Kuuku accurately read the emotions on her face and grabbing her arms, pulled her closer.
“Susan, you have been my best friend for a long time. You’ve been there for me through thick and thin. Would you continue to be my best friend as well as be there for me through thick and thin?”
“Yes,” she said quietly.
“Okay best friend, when are we getting married?”
“What?” she laughed incredulously. She didn’t know why she felt giddy at his question.
“I want to marry my best friend and you just promised to be there for me through thick and thin. Didn’t you realize I’d paraphrased the wedding vows?”
Susan laughed. “You’re serious about this?”
“More than anything in my life. I’d been waiting for Emma to walk away or for you to boot him out of your life so you can imagine how I felt when the perfect opportunity presented itself tonight.”
“You’re incorrigible.” Susan laughed again. She realized she’d laughed more in the past 2 minutes than she’d laughed in the year she’d known Emma. She looked up into her best friend’s face and something told her she’ll be laughing a lot with him by her side. When his lips drew closer, laughter was the last thing on her mind.