The following day’s paper was the last and it was not due until later in the afternoon. I therefore took the opportunity to go downstairs and do some laundry. Almost everyone had left for class so I had the whole laundry room to myself. I was done a short while later, had early lunch and left for school.
The tension between me and Raj was palpable. He said a casual hi and settled down to revise, which I knew was pretentious by all means. With nothing and nobody else to turn to, I tried to do the same but gave up a short while later. My mind would just not allow it. After agonizing for two hours the lecturer finally brought the test. It was done in a hurry, given it was the last paper and everyone was looking forward to getting done with the exams. Raj finished before me so he signaled that he was leaving and I nodded in affirmation.
On my way to the hostels, Alexa, Christine’s roommate caught up with me.
“Hey, you must be happy you’re done with the exams.” She started.
“Yea, of course I am, who wouldn’t be?”
“Lucky you, I still got one more paper due tomorrow.” She said dejectedly.
“You’re almost done.”
“Yea. Anyway, am sorry to ask but what’s up with you guys…I mean, you and Christine?”
“Nothing, why?” I vainly tried to be cagey.
“Don’t try to be smart, you know what am talking about.”
“Why would you ask then?”
“Just to get your side of the story.”
“Well, what did she tell you?”
“That you are playing her, she saw you getting cozy with another girl.”
I kept quiet and she carried on.
“Christine is hurt and won’t stop crying, she’s really into you.”
“Then why isn’t she picking up my calls or replying to any of my texts? She isn’t giving me much of a choice here.”
“It’s because she feels betrayed. You guys started off fine and before your relationship matured you do this to her.”
“If only she could listen before jumping into conclusions.” I told her.
“It seems pretty clear that you’re cheating on her.”
I wanted to argue with her and exonerate myself but I realized she was taking Christine’s side and no amount of explanation would make her see things from my perspective.
“If she’s around tell her to meet me in the T.V. room. I’ll explain everything to her.”
“Okay, see you around.” She said and hurried on.
Girls can be hard to understand at times. Christine made it pretty clear she wanted nothing to do with me. As much as it was reassuring to know she still cared, I wondered why she would pretend not to. I was not sure if I wanted to meet her, especially in light of the ways things were progressing with Sonia. Talking of Sonia, I was not sure I had made the right move in confessing my love for her. Heck, was it even love or just infatuation? Time would tell. The fact that none of her relatives wanted her to date outside her race made things appear tougher. I was counting on Raj to back me up but his latest behavior pointed otherwise.
After a quick shower and a change clothes I made my way down to the T.V. room, unsure whether Alexa had convinced Tina (Christine’s pet name) to meet with me.
I absent-mindedly watched some music show on telly as I kept looking at the clock impatiently. Ten…twenty…thirty minutes later and Christine was nowhere to be seen. I gave her fifteen more minutes and when they elapsed I stood up to leave. As if on cue, she appeared on the doorway. She paused briefly, smoothed her dress on either side of her thighs and made her way towards me daintily. She was wearing a cream light sweater and a light brown khaki dress. Her attire made her seem gentle and vulnerable. From a distance, I observed her eyes were red and puffy, obviously she had been crying. I remained upstanding as she approached, guilt and pity tagging at my heartstrings. I felt ill-at-ease, and so was she. She clasped her wrists and squeezed them as she said a barely audible hi.
“Hi.” I said in reply.
She remained silent so I gestured that we sit.
“You don’t look too good, is everything okay?” I asked.
“Had a slight headache and was sleeping through it.” She said, biting her lip.
I was not sure how or where to begin so I dived right in.
“So I hear you are mad at me and I thought it wise to clarify things.” I started.
“Is there anything to clarify?” she asked, raising one eyebrow.
“Well, yea. For starters you aren’t neither picking my calls nor replying to my texts…meaning you are mad at me about something.”
“I see you wanted me to pretend everything is alright while you flirt with the muhindi openly” she said, anger and pain evident in her voice.
“Flirt? Hell no, Sonia is a sister to my friend Raj. So she’s a friend, nothing more.” I said, almost biting my tongue. I wished I could tell her the truth but I was sure it was not what she wanted to hear, at least not at the time.
“Friend with benefits, obviously.” She muttered, staring beyond the room’s walls.
“No, just a friend.”
“I don’t know. I trusted you with all my heart, not knowing yours is somewhere else.”
“Come on babe, you’re the only one I care about and you know that.” I said defensively.
“No, I don’t know that for sure, and please, don’t call me babe.” She retorted, visibly angry.
Things were not working as I had envisaged and so I had to change tact, I would play the remorse card. If it failed then I would graciously excuse myself and leave her to heal, I promised myself.
“Okay. I know you’re mad at me and justifiably so. Am sorry that I interacted with Sonia in a way that suggested I am romantically interested in her. I promise this won’t happen again.”
She looked at me pensively, then away, for what seemed like eternity.
“Well?” I urged her when she did not say anything.
“What, so you think you can do whatever you want, apologize and then things will get back to normal?” She asked sarcastically, pretending to be harsh.
“Of course not, it’s entirely up to you to decide the next course of action.” I told her, trying to sound diplomatic.
She stood up, smoothed her dress, and turned to leave.
“I will think about it.” She said, with her back towards me.
I watched her walk away, more confidently than she did when she came in. I smiled, knowing I had thawed some ice.
My happiness was momentary though, upon realizing what a complicated situation I had gotten myself into. Navigating through it would require what the wise African men of yore aptly termed as ‘the carefulness of a man about to swat a fly perched on his scrotum.’
To be continued in part 9…
Beyond Shades: Part 8