I looked at my watch and checked the time… 3 a.m but she had not left the WhatsApp emoji with that disappointed face she had always left whenever we had a fight. For the first time she did not call to say how disappointed she was in me. I knew I was fried!!!
It had been a busy month on my side and I must confess it took a toll on me. I did not realize how far apart we had grown, how cold we had become at the presence of each other. I would rise early in the morning before she woke and leave for the library only to set foot at the house late in the night after she had fallen deep asleep. I did not even notice that we had departed from doing the ritual we so much loved from the very first time we met…always reading to each other those lines we found interesting in the books we borrowed from the library.
She had chosen Performing Arts and I Literature. This is after a thoughtful consideration and soul searching. I had participated in the decision making process telling her that she could do well in Performing Arts given her high level confidence and humour. She had always loved celebrities especially those on the big screens doing their thing. She loved Lupita specifically drawing a lot of inspiration from her heart rendering quote, “No matter where you come from, your dreams are valid”, after clinching the highly coveted Oscar’s.
We still both did a lot of reading together despite not sharing most of the classes. Before we knew it the timetables and the different schedules we had started denying us the little time we shared. She had practices to go to, I had the library to hide in. We took it positively and resorted to the use of the phone to keep the communication alive. This was however short-lived given our student status and the never ending, more demanding and urgent expenses that we had. Needless to say, the economy tricked us.
In an attempt to salvage the situation, I suggested we give up the individual rooms we occupied and stay together as this would not only save us with the expenses but also bring us closer together. It was fun at the beginning and we both loved it. Our friends respected the decision in spite of occasional bad mouthing from a few pretenders for friends. We had always trended on matters relationship in and around campus but the staying together part had escalated it. We lived like celebrities.
We did not notice how fast we were losing it. We started living like celebrities, always smiling for those who decided to make our relationship their business. I wonder how they did in terms of returns. We lived to make a name and never bothered to look at the underlying issues that we faced. Things got so bad and after realizing that we were too proud to own up to everyone’s mistake, she resorted to spending more time at the Podium ‘practicing’ while I stayed in the library ‘reading’.
After a while she would come at the room late in the night saying she was practising. I did not even notice the unusually big luggage she usually came with in the room, which I later learned used to carry guns. Then one day out of the blues she told me they were having a plan that would forever change us. My effort to know more about the big plans bore no fruit given that she never accepted any questions. I had not even realised how defensive she had become of late. Not knowing how to react I urged her on, telling her that she can do it. I thought it was the practice which was materializing and something big would finally come of it. Little did I know that I was sending Bella to the dark path I had helped her avoid.
She and I had been close as kids, always going to school together, playing the little daddy and mummy together before graduating to car racing and finally football which she so much liked. She would even choose to play the police when we did police-robbers scenes. In our little clique, no one performed the police part like she did maybe because she borrowed a lot from her father who was a police officer at the local police station. Back in the days my friends used to diss me with her saying she acted more like a man than a lady. While her friends played ‘ukii’-that game where a lot of running aroung and ducking a ball which is thrown at you with the soul aim of hitting you is involved, she wanted to play football with the boys. And while her girlfriends made dolls for imaginary babies before ‘breastfeeding’ them with imaginary milk Bella wanted to play the corporal in a shoot-out with thugs. Maybe this is where she nurtured her acting skills.
Bella played the good guys in the little movies we made. However, as a teenager she grew up to be the bad one. Always causing havoc and chaos in the neighbourhood. She had grown to love fighting and never cared to choose who became a victim of her wrath. Everyone including boys sorted her help when faced with a matter that needed a little more of might than wit. Not that she was not smart. She excelled in her academics and secured a place in a good high school. Realising that she could not get better opponent to challenge her in her little world, she settled on doing drugs. This almost ruined her if not for her uncle who had been a doctor then. He enrolled her in a rehab and after much struggle with addiction she emerged victorious. As if this was a blessing in disguise for me, she came out of hospital more close to me than she had ever been. I thought I would be in trouble after telling on her to her parents and teachers about her drug use. We became friends since then engaging in a lot of reading together.
Back in campus at the Cafeteria at about three in the afternoon, the Kubamba show is interrupted with an emergency news. “SIX UNKNOWN GANGSTERS, FIVE MALE AND ONE FEMALE SHOT DEAD AT THE I&M BUILDING.” My heart skipped a bit and I don’t know why. I felt lost and hurt at heart even before the bullet riddled bodies were put on faces. I had learned to trust my instincts. During the 4 p.m news bulleting it was confirmed that Bella had been among the six gangsters shot dead while attempting robbery with violence.