Sara, I have gone through too much heartbreak and though I still believe in love, I can’t pretend I am not tired”, Freda said with a sigh. She eyed me, “at least you are better off!”
“Me?! Better off how? Me that I have become Lady of the Ring now”, I said with a forced laugh.
Freda froze initially but later joined in the laughter, “It’s true though. You have been engaged for almost 3 years now, haven’t you?”
Freda and I continued to banter while intermittently casting glances at Ore, who sat quietly in a corner, pretending not to listen to our conversation.
After a while, I looked Freda in the eye and jerked my head towards Ore. Freda nodded. The two of us playfully jumped on Ore, pulling her and tickling her all over till she laughed her yellow face pink. When we were convinced we had kicked her melancholy to the curb, we settled down on either sides of her and waited for her to calm.
Freda and I exchanged a brief look. “Ore, what is going on with you?” I asked as our mini-intervention started.
“Nothing!” Ore replied, smiling broadly.
Freda was having none of that, “Why do we have to probe you every time? Are we not your closest friends? Have we not…?”
“Freda!” I cut in, giving her a bulgy eye stare-down. I turned to Ore, “Darling, something is going on with you. You know it, we know it, you know we know it, so let’s cut to the chase”.
“Uh-huh!” Freda smirked.
I gave Freda a side-eye glare and continued, “You flake on us, you don’t come to the phone and honestly, your stories these days are becoming inconsistent” I paused, waiting for her to say something. “Spill or we will tickle you till you choke”, I threatened. I wasn’t bluffing; it had happened before, though accidentally.
As we slowly made to tickle her, Ore finally piped up. “Okay, Okay! I will tell you”
“Good!” Freda said with glee.
We sat and listened to Ore tell us about how she had met Henry barely two months after she and Dotun had broken off their two-year relationship.
“A-ha! I knew it!” Freda spat in part excitement and part annoyance.
“Freda! Pipe down”, I scolded. “Ore, please continue”, I prompted
Ore shared how she had resolved to use Henry as a rebound after he has consistently ignored her rejections. Fortunately, things took an unexpected turn for her and now they had a blossoming relationship.
Freda and I exchanged looks. “You mean you have been having a relationship for almost 8 months and we know nothing of it?” It was my turn to be annoyed.
“O-ho! when I was complaining, you were preaching about pipes and other stories”, Freda smirked again.
“Do you want to hear the story or not?” Ore asked without remorse. We simply stared at her, not response.
Ore’s eyes began to dance with excitement as she narrated about her new found love. It turned out that Henry was a very serious guy who was looking to get married. He loved her and pampered her like she was some fragile glass. Henry came from a strong Christian home where both parents were leaders in the church while Ore was from a staunch and prominent Muslim family. We didn’t need a prophet to tell us that there were problems in the offing.
Ore had suggested she get pregnant so either parents wouldn’t have a choice but to encourage their union, however, Henry was unwilling to dishonour her and his parents by going that route.
“So, that’s my dilemma right now”, Ore finished. “So now that you both know, what do you suggest I do?”
“Break up with him and move on quick”, Freda said without pausing to think. Ore stared at Freda like she had gone mad. Freda chuckled and moved off the bed. “Alright Sara, you tell her because it seems like anything I say is crazy and you are the angelic one”.
Ore looked at me expectantly.
“Freda is right!”, I said gently.
“Thank you”, Freda bowed dramatically.
“You can’t be ser…”
I raised my hand to cut off Ore’s protests, “Freda is right because, as much as we like to deny it now in this part of the world, religion is an important factor in marriage. The faith we practice is an integral part of our growth right from childhood. The precepts of our faith are ingrained in us early; it is what we live by and it is what shapes our perspective of life as we grow”
I continued, “Yes, a lot of people say both faiths are similar but the differences are major. How do you reconcile those differences? What about all the doctrines you have grown up with? How do you both begin to change all that”.
I reached out to hold her hand, “I get that you have been through a lot as far as heartaches and heartbreaks are concerned but perhaps, you need to think long term. How long do you reckon it will take before your differences become a problem?”
Unlike Ore, I knew Freda came from a family where two parents have different beliefs but I decided not to put her on the spot in this issue. If Freda was going to share the story of her parent’s marriage as an example, it will have to be purely her decision.
Freda’s voice cut through the silence, “Look, just like this scenario, my parents both belong to two different faiths. They promised each other that it wouldn’t matter but barely two years down the line, it started to matter and they have been patching their marriage ever since”. Freda’s voice was becoming shaky and her eyes began to tear up. I moved to hold her hand and encouraged her to continue.
“I know in this part of the world, we like to pretend we are invincible but I cannot begin to qualify the psychological damage their relationship has caused my brother and me. Imagine constantly being torn between your parents, having to watch them go at each other, loathe each other, be unable to compromise on the littlest things…” She trailed off, tears rolling down her face.
I moved closer to Freda and rubbed her back to calm her down. She continued, “My brother and I once begged them to get a divorce; It was that bad.” Freda said with a tone of finality, “Ore, it’s not worth it in the long run, trust me. Let it go now”.
I looked at Ore and I could tell that she was struggling with the decision she had to make, even though she knew we were right. Finally, I said, “We have told you what we sincerely think Ore but know that whatever you eventually decide, we will support you fully”.
“Yes, we will support you”, Freda said with a smile on her face and kindness in her eyes too.