When Fate Showed You Mercy

You were 12 the first time you had a crush on a girl, even though you didn’t realise what you were feeling at the time. Other girls talked about their crushes on boys, and it was similar to how you felt, but it never occurred to you that what you felt for your best friend was more than friendship. So you just enjoyed the crush without the pressure, only mildly confused when you got over it two weeks later and were no longer interested in spending every moment with Boatemaa or giving her the whole of your favourite meat pie that your mom baked for you every Friday.

You were 16 the first time you felt sexual attraction. You were in denial because what you felt couldn’t be real. It was against nature and everything you’d been taught. So you convinced yourself that it wasn’t possible; that the quickening of your breath, that deep desire to always see Baaba, to be in her presence, and to know what it would feel like to kiss her, was unreal. Nevertheless, the idea scared you enough that you avoided her and immersed yourself in church activities, convinced that your “village people” were after you.

You were 19 and in your second year at the university when you fell in love with a girl for the first time. You met her at Maame Vic’s Fried Rice Stand one Tuesday night at 10 p.m., both of you arriving at the same time and calling out your orders simultaneously in a bid to be faster than the other person. It turned out that there was only enough fried rice remaining to make one full pack, so Maame Vic asked if you would be willing to share. Eyeing each other warily, you both nodded because you had no other choice. It was late, all the other good food stalls had closed, and you were hungry. You insisted on splitting the bill even though she offered to pay, and after that, she invited you to share the food in her room. Her name was Abena Akomea, and that was the beginning of your friendship and doomed love. 

She was a privileged girl from a wealthy family who went to Dubai and London on holidays, and you were a regular girl from a lower middle-class family where holiday trips were only to your hometown. But you both loved Beyonce and Korean Series, and you enjoyed each other’s company. She was also in her second year as an architecture student while you were offering social sciences, but you studied together and spent so much time with each other that people called you twinsies. You lived in the same hostel, but while you shared your room with three other girls, she had a room all to herself, so you spent most of your free time there.

What started as an innocent friendship became more, to the extent that you started to imagine kissing her, touching her, and being intimate with her. You were so afraid of your feelings that you tried to avoid her, and for one week you ignored her calls and ran off to another hostel to stay with another friend. But she tracked you down, almost in tears, when she found you walking back from your last lecture of the week, confused and hurt by your sudden coldness and unexpected ghosting. You felt terrible seeing her like that, and it hurt you to see her hurt, so you went back to her room with her, where she broke down and pleaded with you to forgive whatever wrong she did to make you ghost her. It shocked you to see her distraught. She had always seemed too tough and posh to act that way over a friendship. It was then that you realised that she felt the same way you did. Gathering courage, you hugged her and apologised for your behaviour, telling her vaguely that you had distanced yourself because she had started to mean too much to you. She confessed that she felt the same way too, and staring at each other with nervous excitement, you moved forward to share your first kiss. 

For two months, it was just kisses and fully clothed cuddles on secret indoor dates until you gathered the courage to touch each other more intimately. The first time she touched your naked breasts was a revelation, but it was nothing compared to the pleasure of her fingers playing with your clit or her lips and tongue eating you out into oblivion. Nervously and eagerly, you explored each other’s bodies until you knew her body more than you knew yours. You met the love of your life at nineteen, and it was a feeling you would never forget. It was hard for both of you to hide your feelings from others, but you did your best, showing what you felt for each other only when you were alone. 

You were 21 and in your final year when the cracks in your relationship began to form. For two years, you had loved each other in secret, even going on dates with men when a few people started to make pointed remarks about your closeness to each other and the lack of men in your lives. You were afraid of discovery because everyone you knew would ostracise you if they ever caught a whiff of your relationship. You both understood why you had to go out with men, but you couldn’t help the jealous rage you felt seeing your lover cosy up with someone else. You fought often and made each other miserable, but eventually you found common ground, and your love filled the cracks.

You were 22 when you had to tell each other goodbye. On the eve of your graduation, you were so excited that you got careless, neglecting to lock the door to the small apartment you now shared as roommates. Your cousin walked in and caught you together in a deep kiss. He looked at you both in shocked disgust while you begged him not to expose your secret, claiming it was your first time. He didn’t believe you but was willing to keep your secret as long as you paid him GH¢ 5,000 and never saw each other again. He vowed to expose you to your parents and all your friends if he ever saw you two in the same vicinity or heard of you speaking to each other after graduation. He knew both of your families, so you believed his threats. You and Abena had planned to use her parents’ contacts to get both of you at the same National Service post and, from there, work on getting scholarships to travel abroad where you could be together, but this discovery changed your plans. Abena paid the blackmail fee, and that night, you made love for the last time. Clinging to each other, you shared a tearful goodbye and promised to love each other forever. Your families and everyone who knew you were shocked when the two of you severed ties, but after she travelled to the US three months later, the questions slowly died away.

You were 26 when you got married. He was the son of a family friend you had known your whole life. When he first asked you to be his girlfriend, you told him that you couldn’t love him the way he wanted, but he was convinced that you would feel the same over time. Your family loved him, and he was a handsome, hardworking man who didn’t pressure you too much for sex. You gave in eventually because you knew you couldn’t avoid it forever, and while you didn’t enjoy it, it wasn’t horrible, so you learned to make the right noises. When he asked you to marry him six months later, you accepted because if you were doomed to be with a man, the devil you knew was better, and you were determined to make it work. For all the years you were married, you were faithful, and you had two daughters together that you both loved dearly.

You were 41 when you lost your husband in a road accident. He went out with his mistress and never came back. He had been an okay husband, just as you had been an okay wife. After you caught him cheating two months into your marriage, you were ashamed to admit to yourself that you were relieved that he would get his sex elsewhere. He was confused when you sat him down to discuss the situation logically, giving him rules to ensure that he would be discreet about his affairs and date one woman at a time. He agreed to always use protection, and you made sure he took regular tests so that he didn’t transfer any STDs to you during your once-a-month marital sex. He didn’t press you when you explained to him that you were sexually repressed and, as such, willing to look the other way while he had his libido sated elsewhere. So when you lost him, you were devastated, because although you couldn’t fall in love with him, in your own way you loved him, and he had been your best friend.

You were forty-six and a widow of five years when fate showed you mercy. You had travelled to Baltimore for a conference on women’s rights in November. It was a cold, winter night on the second day of the conference, and after returning to your hotel, you were lonely and bored, so you decided on a whim to visit the quaint coffee shop you pass by on your way to and from the conference centre. You were craving sticky buns and hoped to score some at the coffee shop. 

The coffee shop was warm and half-full, with patrons sipping hot drinks from yellow mugs and scarfing down delicious-smelling baked treats. Lost in your craving for sticky buns, you didn’t notice the other customer already at the counter being served by another wait staff until you heard her mention sticky buns at the same time you did. You turned to look at each other, the light of amusement in your eyes fading into stunned recognition when you saw her. You barely heard the servers tell you apologetically that there was only one left, offering you other options. There was a bubble of hysterical laughter tickling your throat, and you wondered whether you should be amused or annoyed. After more than twenty years, you could still feel that punch to the gut and the squeezing of your heart at the mere sight of Abena Akomea. She was still so beautiful in her maturity, her natural hair in a high afro pony, and her lush body in a knee-length black dress that showed off her curves. And her face, that gorgeous face that had never stopped visiting your dreams, was older now but looking at you with the same lovestruck expression that took your breath away twenty-seven years earlier as a teenager.  

“I think we’ll share,” she told her server with a dimpled smile. “We’re old friends.” 

In a shocked daze, you left the coffee shop together, nervous and excited by the deeply buried feelings that were eager to escape from their tautly built prison. On your way to your hotel, which was closer than her house, you told each other what had filled your years apart. You learned that she had relocated to the US after you were separated and that her second marriage ended four months ago. When she mentioned that she had a son from her second marriage who was in college, you told her about your late husband and your beautiful daughters too. As soon as the door to your room closed behind you, you fell onto each other, the sticky bun lying forgotten in its brown paper bag on the couch. With nervous fingers and starving lips, you released the desire you had kept locked away for many years. The years fell away, and it felt like it was just yesterday that you were groping each other in your hostel room, trying to commit every touch to memory before your separation. 

And later, when you lay naked in the arms of the love of your life, sated for the first time in a little over two decades, you smiled into the dark with your hand splayed over her heart. 

You had craved each other in your years apart, and now fate has shown you mercy and brought you together again. You did your duty to your families, and you are too old now to care about what others think anymore. For twenty-four years, you made the world happy. Now, it is time to make yourselves happy too.

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