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Three is a crowd: Oh, this unremitting guilt!

David, Julie and Diane share different spaces in one another’s lives, yet their worlds collide on an axis none of them saw coming.

DAVID

I don’t know why I decided to spend the night at the island with Julie. It had been a purely spontaneous decision, which was totally unlike me; I like to plan all my moves well in advance – both at work and away from it. Until now.

Obviously, I knew Diane would be mad when I told her; so, I chose the cowardly way out, and texted her instead of calling her.

“Hi. Have only just been able to see the owner of the land, so will spend the night here rather than make the drive back in the dark. Will be home tomorrow morning.”

Her response a few minutes later did little to quell my discomfort.

“Do what you want David,” she had replied.                                         

I did not regret my decision to stay; I had enjoyed every minute Julie and I spent together. We had made love countless times, and as usual the time spent with her was both reinvigorating and fulfilling.

Yet I still could not shake that small, quiet voice that said this was in some way, to some degree, wrong. We left the island shortly after eight, on the first boat back to the mainland.

Although I had told Julie it did not matter that she had not packed an overnight bag, I too felt self-conscious and uncomfortable wearing the same clothes I had worn the previous night, and was eager to get out of them.

“What’s your plan for the day?” I asked, once we got back to shore, and I drove her home.                                                   

“I don’t know; probably just prepare for work tomorrow. My mother has been badgering me to go and see her, but I’ll do that at the end of the month after payday.”                                          

“No; if she’s been asking for you to go, you should absolutely go and see her; I’m sure just seeing you is what matters most to her.”                           

“Ha! You don’t know my mother; if my visit doesn’t come with a financial solution to all her problems, I might as well not have visited,” she answered wryly.

There was a strong undertone of bitterness in her voice. I sensed she found her family’s financial demands on her a significant strain. Thankfully, she was now more accepting of money I gave her; of late, she simply thanked me, which made it easier to help her.     

While some might have viewed this as a sign that she was becoming a gold digger of sorts, I saw it as a sign that she was getting more comfortable with my taking care of her. Besides, she had never actually asked me for money. At her gate, I counted out Shs 200,000 and handed it to her.

“Our parents are growing old, we should go see them when they call us. Go see your mum,” I urged her.                        

She looked at the money in her hand, then up at me gratefully.

“Thank you; I’ll go as soon as I’ve showered and changed.” 

“Good; have a nice visit, and travel safe,” I smiled, pleased at how easily she had accepted my directions.          

“Thank you, take care too,” she smiled back, then after a quick peck on my cheek, climbed out of the car.                  

I turned to head to a woman I knew was not going to be quite as welcoming or pliable. As I drove home, I mentally braced myself for my meeting with Diane.

DIANE

The wedding had gone as badly as I had expected it to. Even though the children and I had arrived early, so that we would not draw attention to ourselves by making our way through a packed church, David’s absence had been noticed and openly remarked upon once we got to the reception.

“Diane, how lovely to see you! And the children are so grown! But where is David? Isn’t he with you today?” “I haven’t seen David yet, is he around?” “What a pity David couldn’t make it,” and on and on it went.                        

Even my mother got in on the action: “Why isn’t David with you? This is a family event, I would have expected to see him here.”

“He had to travel for work,” I lied.         

“Eh, he’s traveling quite a bit for work these days; wasn’t he just at Murchison, or some place like that recently?”      

“Yes, they are very busy,” I answered through gritted teeth, perfectly aware of what she was driving at; and eager to put a stop to it, went on with a sweet smile; “He’ll be back tonight, so we’ll actually be leaving early so that I can be home to receive him.”                         

I knew she would approve of this picture of docile domesticity, and hoped it would be enough to get her off my case. It was not.

“It’s good he’ll be back tonight; that means you can come and have lunch with us tomorrow - all of you - together,” she stressed these last words; so, I knew it was not an invitation, it was an instruction.                           

“That sounds nice; we’ll see you tomorrow then,” I smiled with a confidence I did not feel, then pecked my father, before quickly ushering on the children.

margaretwamanga@yahoo.com

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