Love is not enough (Part 1) - another short story

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Love is great. Love is necessary. Love is beautiful. But love is not enough.

This is the first part of this short tale.

Enjoy

***

I am pregnant

James listened as if her words were unreasonable, perhaps even forbidden. The look on his face was that of a man who was resolutely disgusted and while he held the mobile phone to his ear, her voice was drowned by the sound of his own heartbeat.

He gently nodded his head repeatedly as he struggled to concentrate before decidedly taking a sip from the cold jug of beer right in front of him. The bobbing head was an involuntary reaction to the words ringing in his head. Sweat patches stained his shirt at the armpit dripping down his torso as he swept off swats of sweat beads from his forehead.

“I am pregnant” his mind replayed her words.

Just like that!

His friends must have assumed that he was bobbing his head to the loud music blaring from the blown speakers a few distance away, but his rhythm was offbeat.

A closer look at his face told half the story. The message he had just received on the phone was as unpleasant as the whiff of stale urine that assaulted his nostrils even in the cool evening breeze. He was not only troubled but visibly shaken.

The beer suddenly tasted bitter as though mocking him. He needed something stronger.

He stood up from his seat and approached the road side further away from the earshot of his friends.

“Buy cigarette when you are coming back” one of his friends bawled, half-drunk.

“James, are you there? Did you hear me?” Her voice chimed through his ear canals.

He knew that his next few words would determine the course of their relationship and his mind was ferociously working on a combination of the right words. His tongue drew blank.

“Are you going to say something right now? I am confused!” Yvonne kept the pressure on.

Silence still.

***

Yvonne and James had been seeing each other for close to two years. They started off a few days after they first met at the queue to withdraw cash at a local bank in Ikorodu- a majorly low-income suburb in the greater Lagos. The queue at the ATM was unusually long that day. Only one ATM was available for use out of the six installed in the gallery. They took turns to use the machine and many users struggled with both the slow and outdated software coupled with the disappearing network. This caused the queue to go longer and the waiting time even longer.

James volunteered to coordinate the queue against opportunistic customers who opted to shunt. They found him firm, unyielding and fair. Yvonne found these traits admirable. She spent time admiring his well-built frame and incredibly handsome face. His looks earned him the respect that eventually shortened the waiting time.

He had the appearance of someone who saw right to the heart and would take your entire soul as his friend, keeping it safe come what may. His face to her eyes was all the beauty a man could possess. But the lines on his face etched the story of a young man struggling to survive.

Occasionally when he returned her unfaltering gaze and smile the whole time he stood with arms akimbo manning the only functional ATM, her heart melted.

She had found love.

They met afterwards and it felt like they had known each other for years. They sat in the poorly lit fast-food restaurant that struggled to keep the air-condition working even as the noisy diesel generator huffed and puffed in the sweltering heat of January.

But it didn’t matter to the love birds. They giggled like teenagers and made jokes of everyone they could remember on the queue that afternoon.

James had been looking for a job for months since he completed the compulsory National Youth Service in Abia State. He spent an awful lot of time scouring through the internet for openings that could accommodate his second-class lower degree in Food Science. He never received a regret email nor a call back. It felt like he was throwing his resume into a dark, static worm-hole every time he clicked the send button. Nothing worked. Nothing!

So, dear James was as broke as many good looking hunk could offer in Lagos.

Yvonne loved him nonetheless. Aside his charming looks, he also had a lovely sense of humor and a soft underbelly that allowed her explore his emotional vulnerability. He was not a broken man, at least not just yet, but he had the trappings of a man that life was teaching an unfair lesson.

Subsequent evenings, James spent his early evenings first with Yvonne, before she hurried back home to beat the 8pm curfew set by her disciplinarian father, and then later with two of his friends – Tayo and Tife, who were his unrepentant drinking buddies.

Yvonne had a fairly decent job at a publishing firm in Ikeja where she worked as an executive assistant. She was adored at her workplace for her dexterity on the job and her amazing and smooth diction. The men at her office objectified her with looks that could undress. They could almost feel justified every time they saw her curve of softness wiggle past as she walked to the photocopier or the kitchenet.

To them, she had the firm muscle of an athlete and the blessed fat of a baby. She was the finest form of elixir of youth.

Her male colleagues would catch each other’s piecing look as they timed to perfection their ogle of her backside when she walked past their cubicle. Each returning gaze met with disapproving stare from their supervisor who only managed to rein in the urge to look too.

She had the sort of beauty that made those billboard-princesses look like maids. She was robust and real, brimming with confidence and dashing in appearance.

James found her easy to talk to and fun to be with and he soon found it easy to love her- especially because she shared half her monthly salary with him.

The same half he spent drinking cheap beer and smoking cigarettes with the rest of his drunken, jobless and good-for-nothing musketeers. His friends would rather buy him beer than loan him money to start a business.

Yvonne also had a “hair business” she spent most of her weekends tending to. She sold expensive human hair to saloons and clients from her Instagram page where she actively marketed her wares. She made good returns from the business which she saved religiously towards her future with him.

But blinded by love Yvonne failed to see that her boyfriend lacked ambition and got lazier every time she offered her hard-earned money to him, despite fighting off entreaties from her randy colleagues who would do anything to date her and fund her modest lifestyle.

“You will have to abort it” James muttered into the phone after a prolonged silence.

“You must be joking. I am two months gone and I am not having another abortion. Are you serious my love?” Yvonne’s voice trailing off into sobs.

The last abortion was traumatizing for her, the mere thought of it sent cold shivers down her spine. Lying down in the dinging clinic with her legs spread eagled as the cold blades of the instruments pierced through her flesh. The pain was numbing.

Never again, she swore.

It was her third since they were dating and she had warned James that if he insisted on “no-condom” during their passionate love making sessions every other weekend on the thread bare couch of his parent’s parlor, then she would keep the next pregnancy.

He barely agreed to it at the time as the intense lust had ravaged his senses and beclouded his judgement.

“We are not ready Yvonne. We can’t have a baby right now.” James whispered into the phone as he leaned onto her car, parked a distance from the sit-out that evening.

The same car he drove about town since she bought it three months ago. She barely had the car to herself. He was either driving her to work in the morning or driving his friends to the bar.

Simple life I dare say.

“I will not abort this baby James. I will not. You can’t simply decide what to do with my body.” She retorted rudely.

James ends the call angrily.

“What nonsense” He muttered under his breath.

“Do as you please” with that he tucked the phone in his pocket just about the same time it started to ring again.

He gave the screen one look, before he rejected the call and blocked off his girlfriend’s phone number.

As he walked back to seat with his friends, Tayo called him out.

“Where is the cigarette, we asked you to buy James?”

 Before James could respond, the loud shrill of his ringtone reverberated through his slim jeans.

It was Bola, his other girlfriend. The one he wooed with Yvonne’s car. She had been impressed by the sleek paint and pristine look of the car interior. She felt it spoke volumes about the owner.

They spent most week days together at his parent’s house. On that same thread-bare couch.

“Hello darling” she chimed in excitedly.

“Hello sweets” He managed to reply enthusiastically.

“Babes, I haven’t seen my period in 5days, I fear I may be pregnant”

“What?” James shouted, this time loud enough to get the attention of his friends.

“Who die?” The chorused.

Please click here for the second part of the story.

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