MICHAEL drove straight home, changed into something that suited the evening, and went straight to Suzie’s Bar, where his friends were waiting for him. He was excited; the image of Brenda remained constant in his memory. If she thought her hostility was going to stop him from trying to woo her, then she needed to get her head re-examined. How could he possibly allow such an angel to slip past him? That was not possible! He was going to see the end of this quest. He would call Jane in the next four hours and her reaction on the phone would tell him his next move.
Suzie’s Bar was already bubbling with people. It was a weekend and everybody wanted to get a feel of it. There were lovers and friends, old and young and there was so much excitement in the air.
Michael located his friends and went straight to them. There were three of them and Michael joined them. None of them was drunk yet. They had a long night and were not in a rush.
He cheerfully greeted them all with a handshake and sat down.
The evening began.
After some hours, Michael could feel that the alcohol was beginning to intoxicate him; he decided to call Jane before it was too late.
“Hi Jane. Please tell me how Brenda is doing.”
“Surprisingly Brenda is doing well. Your presence had stirred her blood and she is not as moody as she had been in the last six days.”
“That’s nice to hear. She walked me out of the house, but that is okay and expected.”
“Oh! I am really sorry, I really appreciate your understanding. Something you did or said got her upset but it gave me the opportunity to talk to her and I thank God that everything is turning out positively. Right now she is sleeping like a baby, I hope she won’t relapse by morning.”
“No matter what happens we will always be there for her. You said you talked to her and she listened?” he asked getting more excited.
“I will still like to come around tomorrow,” he suggested.
“Do you think that that will be a good idea? She specifically said that she didn’t want to see you again.”
“Don’t worry, I have some plans,” Michael said, feeling a little bit hurt by Jane’s honest statement. “We have to manipulate her to get the desired result.”
“Alright, but you may not meet me at home. I have a date with my fiancé tomorrow and I am sure it is going to take the whole day.”
“That’s okay; I will make sure I give you situational report.”
Michael dropped the phone, smiling. He liked the news from Jane; it gave him hope. He couldn’t wait for tomorrow. It was time to get high so that time could fly. “Hey guys, we need more bottles on the table,” he said, signaling the bar waiter to come around.
His friends were already in high spirits and were discussing amongst themselves; so they never noticed his excitement.
* * *
Brenda was less pale when she woke up the next morning. Even though she refused to go to church with Jane, the latter could see that she had not relapsed back into her deeply depressing state. Jane did not pressure her or even sound disappointed when she refused to go to church with her, rather she agreed and accepted that it was okay.
“Why do you think Adam decided to quit such a blissful relationship with me?”
“That, Brenda my dear, is one thing I cannot tell you, but what I do know is that whatever was the matter, it surely wasn’t your fault. I believe it all had to do with his own inadequacies,” she tried to point out as she dressed for the service.
“Perhaps I am not as pretty as he desired any longer. Perhaps he had met some other prettier girl who had caught his fancy,” continued Brenda, knowing that she wasn’t even sounding convincing to herself. The real reason must be that Adam had discovered her one night making love to an unforeseen entity and must have surely been freaked out by this revelation! She hadn’t told Jane about her nightly visitor yet, because she didn’t know what the other girl’s reaction to the whole sordid affair would be, hence, part of her asking all these questions now was that she didn’t know how to reveal all this to her and was just trying to justify this behavior.
At least, she’d started talking. A good development, thought Jane. “No, Brenda, I don’t accept your theory. You are still very pretty, more pretty than Adam could ever imagine. In fact, you are so pretty that I think God is preparing you for somebody better than Adam,” she pointed out again.
“I wish I can believe you. I don’t have faith in myself any longer,” Brenda sadly said.
“Try harder and it will never let you down,” Jane told her as she put final changes to her makeup.
“Thank you very much, Jane. I don’t think I would have survived this without you.”
“Just promise me that you are going to be a good girl. Have your bath, eat and be cheerful before I come back from service.”
“I will, Jane, I promise.”
Then Jane gave her a warm hug before leaving for church.
When she came back later that afternoon, she was glad to see that Brenda had cleaned herself up, looking both fragile and charming. Brenda was busy preparing lunch.
“How was the service?” she called out from the kitchen when she heard Jane enter.
“Lovely. I had a swell time with God.”
Brenda smiled to herself and looked up as Jane walked into the kitchen.
“I will have to leave you immediately after lunch. I have to meet Brad before 2:00 p.m.” Jane wished she could take her words back. The smile went off Brenda’s face at the mention of Brad.
“You’re really going to have a nice time, Jane. You are such a lucky girl. Oh Jane, I really loved Adam. He was such a perfect lover. Why would he hurt me this way?” She looked at her friend and realized that she was feeling guilty. “I am sorry Jane, I really wish you a nice time.”
After lunch, Jane left Brenda at home. She was glad that Michael had promised that he was coming around. If not, she would have postponed her date with Brad. Of course, he would have understood. She was very confident that Brenda was in safe hands with Michael, so she went ahead with the day’s plan.
Jane thought Brad looked perfectly handsome in the black suit he wore to church earlier that day, but looking at him now in just black jeans and a sparkling white T-shirt, she was sure that her man did not need to rely on clothes to look handsome.
Brad was light in complexion, 5.6 feet tall and had broad shoulders. He was a very hairy man, but always left just a little hair on his chin. He was the most romantic man Jane had ever met.
She had met him through a family friend of hers and he had not seemed a romantic person at first, but she soon found out that he wasn’t only romantic, he was also funny, caring and fun to be with.
As an attorney in his father’s law firm, Brad did not confirm the impression Jane had of lawyers. She had always perceived lawyers to be proud, hostile and selfish but Brad proved her wrong.
“I still feel very guilty for not coming around to see Brenda all this while, you know,” he now quipped. “You would have waited for me to come over and pick you.” This as he allowed her into his living room.
“I know how you feel, honey, but I am more worried about how Brenda will feel seeing the two of us looking happy together. I thought it best for you to stay away and we both avoid displaying any form of affection around her.” She didn’t want to sit down; he was supposed to take her out. “What are we doing here? Are we not going out again?” she asked with a little impatience.
Brad suddenly looked at her. “Easy girl, I have been waiting for you all day. I thought you should relax a little before going out. But… I am ready!”
Instead of going out as she had earlier suggested, Jane sat down on the sofa. She looked a bit pale.
“What’s the matter, honey?” Brad asked with a serious note of concern in his voice. He walked over to her and sat by her side.
“I am really worried about Brenda. I can’t imagine the trauma she had gone through all these years in the hands of the men she had given her heart to. I sometimes wonder how I would have survived if it was me.”
“How is she doing now?”
“Well, like I suggested to you, I’ve arranged with the Good Samaritan, Michael, to meet her and cheer her up. She still looks shaken, but is now more outspoken since the last time he came around and stirred something within her. I just hope he helps out, I am helpless.”
“You said Mr. Michael is a psychologist?” Brad asked.
“Yes, I hope he does not allow his emotions to overtake him. He seems to know what he is doing, but you can’t always trust men.”
“Look, sweetheart, it won’t do you any good to beat yourself up because of Brenda’s situation. You are doing your best and I am sure Brenda appreciates it and understands. I believe she will come out of her situation with time, but there is nothing you can do for her right now. I would have really wanted to hang out with both of you, though. Why don’t we go pick her up?”
“Don’t worry honey, I don’t think it will be healthy for Brenda to see us, I know what I am talking about. You know I can’t stay around you without displaying my affection, and this will end up breaking Brenda’s heart the more. Besides, Michael will be coming around today; I want to believe that he will give her a good time,” she said.
“Alright, while Brenda is having a good time, why don’t you stand up and enjoy today with me? I have got a special treat for you today, you know?” And he playfully dragged her up.
She smiled and walked with him towards the door. “Where are you taking me to?”
“That will be my big surprise.”
They walked side by side out of the house. Jane tried to push the thought of Brenda out of her mind and concentrated on having a nice time with Brad.
* * *
At exactly 3:17 p.m., Brenda opened the door in response to the knock on the door. At first, she thought it was an angel. Michael was dressed in a long white kaftan; he looked as handsome as ever. Brenda was very surprised at his sight.
“Michael!” she exclaimed.
“Hello, Brenda,” he greeted and walked into the sitting room, leaving her dumbfounded at the door.
She closed it behind her and walked slowly towards him, obviously confused. She walked very slowly, calculating every step. He couldn’t help but admire her.
They both stared at each other for some time.
“Have a seat.” She pointed to the nearest empty seat.
Jane was right, she looked brighter than yesterday. “I actually came to apologize for yesterday. I know I probably spoilt your day. Accept my apologies.”
“Who said you spoilt my day?” she asked with a little curiosity. “I can’t remember telling you that yesterday before you left.”
“I thought I did, judging from the way you asked me to leave.”
“I am sorry for asking you to leave. I guess I overreacted.”
He was shocked at the apologetic response. She was really doing fine. “It’s okay, I understand.” He shrugged, and then said, “Are you alone?”
“Yes, Jane left for her fiancé’s place a few minutes ago,” she replied as she sat down.
“So what are you doing?”
“That means you are idle.” It was both a statement and a question.
“You can say that again.”
“The idle mind, they say, is the devil’s workshop,” he said, watching her.
She smiled and said, “The devil had long ago stopped using only the idle people, he now uses busy people like you.”
He returned her smile. “I guess you are right. That’s the reason I went to church today; to avoid the manipulations of the devil. I promise you I won’t allow the devil to use me as a workshop.”
“Nice to hear that you go to church. Sorry, I have not offered you anything.”
“Actually, I would have preferred we go out together. We can go to a fast food restaurant. There, we will have a lot to choose from. How about that?” he asked, praying within himself that she would accept.
She remained quiet for some seconds as if she was in a dilemma. Surprisingly she said, “Just give me some time; I’ll like to change into something similar to what you are wearing.” She stood up and went into the bedroom, and he quietly let out an air of relief.
As Brenda changed into something traditional, she felt like it had been ages since she’d had a nice time. Her senses tried to warn her not to go but she was bored and was actually tired of just staying at home.
She came out fifteen minutes later dressed in a black local material, sown into a simple blouse and trouser. She wore light makeup and her new hairdo was still glistering.
“I am ready,” she announced, spreading her hands wide open.
Michael felt like hugging her, but rather resisted the urge. They worked out of the building and drove off in his car.
Baker’s Spot was bubbling. The atmosphere was livelier than Michael had ever witnessed. It was in harmony with the way he felt inside; elated, as he walked into the restaurant with Brenda by his side. They looked so conspicuous in black and white native attire and people couldn’t help admiring them. It was like they were meant for each other.
They sat on an empty table that a couple just left and Michael signaled to the waiter, who came around and showed them the menu list. He gave it to Brenda to make her choice, and she ordered vanilla ice cream and hamburger. He did the same thing.
“Do you like it here?” he asked her while they waited for their order.
“Yes,” she said, looking around. “I have been here a couple of times with ….” And she stopped, looking pale. “Never mind.”
“I was informed at the hospital the other day that you are going through heartbreak. I want you to know that I understand the stress people go through when someone they loved and gave their heart to breaks it. But I want you to understand that seventy out of hundred relationships are likely to break up, therefore you mustn’t blame and pity yourself when your affair comes to an end. A good relationship comes through experience and patience. The best thing for you is to be strong for your own sake and get over it as soon as possible.” He was very gentle.
“Easier said than done.”
“Yes, it is difficult but not impossible. First of all, I believe that we start the process of self healing by talking about it to someone who cares. This gives you the opportunity to reduce the burden of pain, and ease the emotional wound.”
“Thanks for your sweet words, Adam; sorry I meant Michael! Right now, I don’t want to talk about my past miserable relationships. We might as well talk about it some other time. Please, I hope you understand.”
“It’s alright, I really understand.” At least there would be another day, he thought.
The waiter brought their orders, and when he left, Brenda turned to him. “Can you tell me why you keep coming around to see me?”
He was caught off guard by that question. He didn’t know what to answer, and then she said, “Please be honest with me. Do you want me to be your girlfriend? Are you sexually attracted to me?”
“Brenda, I think that is too early for me to say now. Presently I am more concerned that you recover from your depression more than anything that I might feel for you. I can’t deny that you are a pretty girl, but I don’t want to let that come into my concern for your psychological health at the moment.”
“Then, promise me that you will never ask me out. Promise me that you will never ask me for my love or make me fall in love with you.” He was handsome and desirable. Most girls would quickly fall for his charms and she was not an exception, but the only way she could resist him was if he didn’t pressure her to fall in love with him. “Just take me as your friend and nothing more.”
He couldn’t make such a promise. “That is not important and necessary for now, Brenda. I know you must have really loved your boyfriend and it is not going to be easy for you to get over him. I am definitely not going to use that as an advantage over you. I am just here to make sure that you recover from depression, every other thing is secondary, okay?”
She immediately realized that he could easily make her forget about Adam. “Alright,” she agreed. “And thanks for…for being there for me.”
He nodded and picked up his burger. She did the same thing, and they ate in silence.
“Do you have a girlfriend?” she suddenly quipped.
This girl was full of surprises, he thought.
“No,” he answered. Knowing that she was going to ask why, he quickly said, “And I don’t have a reason for that, I also really don’t want to talk about it.” He knew it would be of no use explaining; she could start thinking the story was one of his tricks to see him as being ‘available,’ another local slang for ‘please consider me.’
She got the message and kept quiet. Deep down within her, she wanted to really know all about his life.
“Have you heard from your boyfriend since then?”
“No, and please he is not my boyfriend, you refer to him as my ex.”
“Okay. He is probably somewhere, regretting his action,” Michael said.
“I don’t think I care any longer,” she firmly said.
“Are you sure?” he asked; actually glad to hear that from her.
“Yes I am sure. Right now I am doing my best to forget about him and I will succeed, no matter the cost.”
“You can do that easier if you get yourself busy, rather than stay alone at home, especially now that schools are on break.”
“What do you suggest?”
“You could go to the cyber café, there you can browse, chat with people, meet people and do other interesting things with the computer.”
“That’s a nice idea, thanks,” she listlessly said.
Michael was sure that Brenda was not going to bother herself with this idea. He was going to call Jane to persuade Brenda to involve herself with something interesting.
“So tell me about yourself,” she began.
He told her everything about himself, except anything that had to do with his love life, since he had none. Then they bought more ice creams and he took her to a nearby recreational park, popularly known as Flower Park. It was one of the only two recreational parks in Lupe. Flower Park was the smaller of the two.
They relaxed on one of the concrete seats. The evening itself was romantic.
“Can you tell me the bravest thing you have ever done?” Her tone was childish and Michael liked it.
“There are two of them. But for now I will tell you only one, I promise to tell you the other one at the right time.”
“Okay, I am all ears.” Brenda was a good listener.
“Four years ago,” he began, “I was still doing my Masters then. I had a neighbor and his name was Glen. Glen was a very rich young man and he loved showing off his wealth. I never knew his source of income and whenever I asked him what he was doing for a living, he would tell me to forget about it, saying that his business was too risky and he wouldn’t go around telling people about it.
“Glen was very nice to me, though, and he never hesitated to come to my aid whenever I was in need. I liked him and he liked me too but he made sure our friendship didn’t pass a certain level. He was obviously a turbulent person and I didn’t understand how an individual with such a personality could be so rich. He believed so much that money ruled the world, and he once said that he could do anything for it. He would travel unexpectedly, but would never tell you why or where he’d visited.
“After some time, though, my gregarious friend started to look worried and withdrawn. I couldn’t understand what his problem was and he wouldn’t tell me either. One night, I saw a young man break into Glen’s apartment. I was awake because I had to read for an exam that I had the next day. In the quietness of the night, I heard the sound of a break in. I looked out of my window and saw a huge, aggressive-looking figure furiously breaking into Glen’s apartment. My friend was obviously in danger, so I quickly called the cops.” By now, Brenda was wide-eyed. “He spent so much time in Glen’s apartment. I was scared that something bad might have happened to Glen. However, the cops came and the intruder tried to escape but he was apprehended. Till today, I keep thanking God that nothing happened to Glen that night.”
And his only audience agreed with a slight head nod.
“To my surprise, though,” he continued, “Glen, who was obviously scared, refused to identify the intruder. I didn’t understand. If not for my insistence, I would have looked like a fool. I felt like a brave man, I’d saved my friend’s life, but it took him awhile to agree to identify the man. This fellow – I have forgotten his name – was sentenced to prison. Sadly I’ve never seen Glen since.”
“That’s interesting,” said Brenda. “But I thought you were going to tell me that you personally caught the intruder.”
“What? The man looked like the devil, himself, and he was armed. I would have been dead by now,” he joked, laughing.
“So Glen never tried to contact you to at least thank you for saving his life?”
“No, he seemed to have disappeared from the face of the earth.”
“That’s strange,” she said, thoughtfully.
“Well, tell me, wasn’t I brave?”
“I don’t know yet, until I hear the other side of the story.” There was silence for some time and then she said, “I want to take a walk.”
They stood up and walked around.
Michael felt joy he had not felt for a long time. He hoped the day would never end. Fortunately, it was eventually nothing but blissful for both of them. They both enjoyed each other’s company and were surprised to see how long they spent together.
Around 7:00 p.m., Brenda announced that it was time to go home. Michael wanted to stay much longer, but had no choice but to oblige her request. At least he had succeeded in making her day and making his day as well. Mission accomplished.
He pulled over in front of her home. From the look of the building, Jane wasn’t yet home. Michael regretted that he was going to leave her alone, but she insisted that it was okay.
“Promise me you will overcome your boredom tomorrow by going to the café or anywhere else, just don’t stay alone at home.”
“I promise,” she said.
“Alright, I’d better be leaving, then!”
“Okay bye. And thanks for giving me a nice time.”
He watched her walk into the house. He couldn’t wait to go home and dream.