FOR THE FIRST TIME IN five years, Florence bumped into Brenda and regaled her with stories of her marvellous, happily ever after life in great detail.
“It’s so wonderful—so—so liberating,” Florence said.
Brenda had attempted it five years before but just a trial for three months. The results of her experiment had been cataclysmic, prompting her to flee the town, leaving no forwarding address.
She gave Florence her trademark contemptuous smile. Brenda was a self-proclaimed bachelorette of the century, a celebrated Miss Independent who is the bane of the modern woman and a free bird flying to wherever her needs and desires took her. It took her by surprise with Florence’s support for the much-talked-about marital bliss. She had always felt Florence was a free spirit, like her, always on the move, with no time for delusions of marriage conventions and restrictions.
Indeed, Florence had been a staunch supporter of the ‘Single Ladies’ club, and at salons and their local joint, she would drip-feed her friends with tales of broken hearts to her credit. How ironical, then, to hear the self-same serial heartbreaker extol the virtues of matrimony.
It was true. Florence had been liberated from the anxieties that plagued her bachelorette days. She had fallen, deeply and irrevocably, head over heels for him. When he smiled, her heart whooped for joy, and her whole body swirled, somersaulted in space and landed, fluttering like a butterfly, in his arms. John had stood by her through the wedding ordeal, his arm around her teeny-weeny waist, smiling protectively into her adorable eyes, anticipating her every whim.
John had told her that she had a home in him, and he welcomed her to his heart. He cherished her to distraction and refused to let her do anything by herself. He told her she was the most wonderful thing since plasma screen TV, football, beer, and sports magazines. He cooked, cleaned, ironed, and went to and fro work on time. He loved her in equal measure.
“I promised never to take someone for granted again,” John told Florence, “and I’d not have you turned into a little skivvy. I did it once, but never again.”
However, as Florence narrated to Brenda her fairy tale marriage, Brenda couldn’t help the need to order a shot of brandy to exorcise the demon of her ex-fiancé.
In their three-month come-we-stay trial marriage, Brenda had performed every function—and did it so cheerfully and with obvious pleasure—from the most menial tasks to hard labour (with no strokes of the cane) as if by magic. She adored him, cared for him, loved him and wanted their marriage to work.
Her weekends with the girls were taken by her fiancé, all the more reason she had to run away for no friend, even Florence, wanted to take her back when the bomb that was her booby-trapped bed of roses detonated. When all bridges that connected her to friends and family were incinerated to smithereens, she became mousy, drab in her conversations and sexually inexperienced in her lover’s eyes.
Well, her husband-to-be could be forgiven for that, but not her for smiling and courting the idea; not until one day when she decided that she was of much more use to mankind in a far-off, under-developed third-world country as a volunteer worker in an NGO or rehab centre than in Nairobi. A single SMS with only two words, ‘I’m gone’, was goodbye enough.
“Tell me more about this fairy godmother husband of yours,” Brenda told Florence. “Isn’t everybody else, when they are not screwing around, whining about how no good men, if not yet taken, are left to marry?”
Florence giggled. She had never believed in marriage. She had aggrandised fun in the relationships she got into and, luckily, got men who were the same. They were always on the move after adding her to their female conquests’ lists, and no one blamed the other when it ended. It was in the name of a free spirit.
Nonetheless, John, grieving his runaway fiancée, who had apparently disappeared off the face of the earth, offered something new. He liked independent women, those with talents, and he no longer wanted a glorified sweet and subservient housekeeper. He embellished mutual responsibility in the relationship, even if it meant him being the fairy godmother. But Florence could be dependent on him, he told her.
“That runaway fiancée he told you about,” Brenda said when Florence was done, “is me.”