Hannah looked gorgeous as she slowly walked to her seat. Walking beside her was her new boyfriend, Tom, who really wasn’t all that new. They’d been together the past three months but in that time, Hannah hadn’t introduced her to her family or acquaintances, only her close friends knew about him. It wasn’t that she didn’t love him, she was just wary. The kind of reticence that instinctively comes from getting your heartbroken over and over. She’d rushed things before and it always ended in someone getting hurt – her. She needed to protect her brittle heart, and Tom understood.
After an awkward brief moment of looking around for their seats, a hand shot up a few tables from where they stood. It was her older sister, Kendi.
Kendi wasn’t really that much older than her, just two years separated them. In fact at some point in their pubescent years, you’d have thought Hannah was older. Puberty had been brutal to her. She had been tall and gawky and towered over everyone in their household. Pimples and zits had burst out of her face. Her breasts had become sharp and pointy to the point where she couldn’t walk around in t-shirts or any other lights tops. Because of this, her confidence had dwindled to near zero and you could see it in her timid gingerly walk. Her youth had been her, a young teen, walking around in an old woman’s body. And mean girls hadn’t been afraid to tell her this at school.
Kendi on the other hand had a graceful youth. Adolescence had worked for her, it was meant for her. Her skin had become clearer. The hips did their thing and her body started taking the figurative ‘8’ shape. Her bosom had made both boys and men drool. She had the natural glow of womanhood. She had been lovely. Just as her personality was.
But even with this great rift between their personality and looks, nothing could separate them. They were as close as siblings could get. They fit together like jigsaw puzzle pieces. Kendi was the talkative one and Hannah the quiet one. That’s how neighbors differentiated them.
Kendi had acted as the light in Hannah’s darkness, guiding her through life. She’d seen her through those tough zero-confidence teen years waving off bullies and even getting into altercations a few times. And in the rare occasion that a boy was interested in Hannah, Kendi had been there to speak for her because Hannah’s inhibition couldn’t let her have conversations with anyone but Kendi – her guiding star.
It was the perfect day for a wedding. The sun had come out to play. The skies were clear and the wind came in cool soft purrs.
At their table though, something was up. The mood had turned into a vapid awkward atmosphere after salutations. Hannah couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Tom, who usually would be talking about anything from the MC’s colorful blazer to the First World War, silently stared down at his phone, scrolling and tapping and swiping things.
Kendi looked forward at the MC and kept mum, which was unlike her. You see Kendi had always been the girl that loved weddings. She craved for them. She lived for them. So whenever she’d get the chance to attend one, she was chirpy throughout the ceremony. Her emotions would always be flaring over the roof. She always seemed to be more invested in the ceremony than the bride and groom were. It was either she was taking selfies, aaaawing, or catching the bouquet. But this today, this wasn’t her. There was something wrong and Hannah could see it. She could feel it in her gut.
In campus, Hannah had slowly but surely started regaining her confidence. The shitty effects of puberty had slowly faded off and she’d grown into a pretty young lass. She had been reborn like a snake that just shed its skin. She was still tall and skinny, but in a prettier way. She had a body like a Victoria’s model; graceful long legs that looked like they’d been dipped in honey, perfect cheekbones and a natural kinky afro she’d kept that made her look like Lauryn Hill in her Fugees days.
She had noticed all these and naturally, become more comfortable in her skin. Boys fell at her feet now, wanting to lick the honey off them. And now with her new found confidence, she could shoo them off her damn self. The fact that Kendi was miles away in another campus also helped, there was no one to fight her battles for her anymore.
Hannah had a fiery passion for Law. Having being soft-spoken and oppressed in her younger years, it was natural she would want to fight for people like her. She had also been good with books. She took to books like a fish in water. What else could she have done when the only friend she’d had was Kendi? Books had been her solace and all she did was read them. Even getting called into Law School didn’t come as a surprise to her or her family.
That’s where she met Tom in her final semester of campus. A semester she had sworn not to get involved with boys. She had decided that boys were ticking time bombs. With them, it wasn’t a matter of if shit would blow up in her face, it was a matter of when. And being the last semester, she needed to avoid any distractions.
She had been sitting in the library studying for upcoming finals. On the table were three thick Criminal Law books and a laptop – a summary of her years in campus. It was circa eight p.m. and the library had been dead silent. Only a handful of few ‘serious’ students were in the library at that time. Outside, it was a ghost town. There were only a few sporadic noises that arose as cliques of students left for a night of debauchery. After all, it was Friday.
Tom had sauntered into the library piercing its serene silence as he shut the door. A backpack had hang from his shoulder lazily as he walked around picking up books he needed. His steps, which hadn’t been that loud, sounded like gunshots against these silent academic hallways. But even with this distraction, Hannah hadn’t looked up. She had been in too deep into laws to hear anything around her. Even when Tom had finally settled right across from her, she hadn’t looked up.
Tom was one of those people that was well-versed about everything. You’ve met this ilk before. They know something about everything. He could fit into any conversation without even trying. It didn’t matter what it was. Whether the topic was about Hitler’s Third Reich era or the latest Sam Mendez movie or Liverpool’s latest signing, you’d count on him having his two cents about the issue. Because of this, he had a lot of friends growing up. It was always, ask Tom, he knows. Because of this, Tom had never struggled with confidence. He could talk to anyone and everyone. Everyone wanted to be around him, but he craved to be around everyone.
Tom had been the only child growing up, something that was very uncommon. For a long time, this bothered him. And when something bothers you for a long time, it starts to define you. You see yourself as that and that only. It had been like this with Tom. Whenever someone would ask how it was being an only child, a tinge of anger would arise in his heart. It didn’t matter if the question was ill-intended or not because to him it had always been an offensive question. He’d get furious and storm off.
He never understood this question.
I eat like every other child. I sleep like them. I’m loved equally if not more than them. I shit just like them. So why should they as such a question?
To Tom, this question suggested that he was lonely. That’s why he’d felt attacked each time someone asked this. And the fact that, he suspected he might be didn’t help. This question tapped into his greatest insecurity.
At home, he only had his parents. As a child, this doesn’t bother you until you get to a certain age and you need to play and interact with kids your age. Tom could only do this at school. When he’d get home, all he could do was read or surf the internet. This is how he became a guru at everything.
Then one day as a young man, he realized that his vast knowledge of things was the greatest weapon he had against the world because really, everyone likes to hear something new and exciting. That’s when everything changed. He’d turned his weakness to a weapon.
You see, Tom and Hannah had been two extremely different people yet so similar. They‘d been two peas in different pods of the same tree. One was a soft-spoken and reserved introvert while the other was a social butterfly. But both had shared the same cup of suffering called loneliness, and this had defined them for a long time.
As Tom quietly settled into his booth in the library, his phone went off. Now everyone in the library was pissed off. Everyone had looked up menacingly at him, especially Hannah who was closest to him. I mean, it is common courtesy if not a rule, that every device is set to silent in the lib, Hannah had thought lividly.
After fumbling around with his phone for what seemed like an eternity, Tom turned it off. But as he did, he met Hannah’s furious glare, the prettiest glare he’d ever seen in his life. It had happened so fast but he’d seen enough to throw him off balance for the rest of that night.
Tom had gone to the lib to get away from his roommate and his rowdy friends so he could study in peace. Now, even in all that quiet, he couldn’t bring his mind to focus because of this other distraction – Hannah. And sadly for him, he hadn’t even piqued Hannah’s interest in that cosmic moment their eyes met.
He stared at her, taking in all her magnificence in awe. He stared until he shut his books having accepted he couldn’t study anymore. He stared till Hannah could feel his stare on her. She’d tried to look back subtly but Tom had noticed and pretended to look somewhere else. What Hannah did notice, though, was his pitch black well-trimmed beard.
They played this cat and mouse game for a while, each time Hannah noticing something sexy about him and getting distracted as well. First it was his beard, then it was his lips, then his shirt, or rather, how his shirt gripped onto his buffed up chest. Then it was his side face as he pretended to look away. Imagine! His side face! Who the fuck is attracted to side faces?! Hannah had thought angrily.
Tom hadn’t realized that Hannah found him attractive. Hannah had been subtle, like most girls are. She’d been observing him in quick glances that went over his head. Tom was still weighing his options, to make contact or let the opportunity slide. After all, she seemed like she didn’t want any distractions from her serious studying. But on the other hand, this could be the first and last time he saw this girl. So he asked himself that question we ask ourselves right before doing something risky, what’s the worst that could happen?
He wrote a note:
I see my phone really ticked you off, I’m sorry about that. I’d however love to have new friends that don’t call me when I’m in the library. You seem like such a friend.
He slid the note to her and observed her as she read and he could almost swear he saw the slightest of smiles on her delicate face.
At the wedding reception, dusk was quickly descending. A lurid sunset lit up the sky making it look like it was on fire. Nothing had changed at Hannah’s table, the ambience had been stale that whole afternoon. Hannah’s attempts at breaking the ice had fallen short. She’d tried to ask Kendi what was wrong but she hadn’t got anything from her. She’d blatantly lied that she was unwell. Hannah finally gave up and sat in silence, occasionally talking to Tom.
It was clear that something wasn’t right and Hannah knew it. She’d never known Tom or Kendi to be great texters. In fact, they were so terrible that Hannah had gotten into quarrels with them because of going for hours without responding to her smses. But both of them today had been deeply immersed in their phones, tapping and texting. The texts had been so many that at some point in the afternoon, they’d both set their phones to silent.
What the fuck is going on! Hannah had thought.
As the wedding came to a wrap, Hannah noticed something.
As they stood to leave, Kendi and Tom exchanged quick glances. At first, she ignored it. But as they walked towards the car, it happened more and more. They were short calculated glances when they thought Hannah wasn’t looking. It became clear to her that they knew what was going on.
Hannah stopped lividly at her feet and stood between them.
What the fuck is going on with you two?! She shouted angrily. She always swore when she was mad.
I asked you a question, dammit! Tom, wtf is up! She scolded as she shoved him.
Silence. Tom threw a glance at Kendi as if to ask for permission to tell Hannah wtf was up. Hannah lost it when she saw this and snatched Tom’s phone from his hand. He tried to take his phone back unsuccessfully.
Touch me and I’ll scream! She hissed furiously.
Embarrassed by people’s stares, Tom retreated. Kendi who’d been silent through the saga, had started crying bitterly.
Hannah began to read the long thread of Tom’s texts with Kendi. She wept uncontrollably as she read.
Tom: Should we tell her? The texts read.
I don’t think so. It was a mistake, we shouldn’t have done it. Kendi had responded.
It didn’t need much time for her to understand what was going on. A few weeks ago, Tom had slept with Kendi at her place. Since then, they hadn’t met because of the guilt in their hearts.
It now made so much sense why Tom had been so reluctant to attend the wedding with her, why he’d asked that morning, Will Kendi be around?
Hannah had suffered her share of heartbreaks but in all her years of dating, none of them felt like this one. She felt a tightening pain in her chest and it literally felt like her heart was breaking. Kendi had been wailing dramatically, rolling on the floor and tugging at Hannah’s dress asking for forgiveness.
I… I’m sor-sorry. She said in between sobs. Please forgive me, Hannah. I’m sor…
Tom, who couldn’t deal with the growing crowd around them had stormed off. Hannah had been too gutted to follow after him.
I’m sorry, sis. Forgive me sis. Kendi pled.
Mustering all the energy she could to speak, Hannah spoke.
You are not my sister anymore. I hate you and I never want to see you again in my life. Fuck you and fuck Tom!
She said as she threw her sister to the ground and stormed off.