She smiled, turned and left, her heart racing, her palms sweating as she waited for the call.
It never came. No one would ever question her actions.
When, 6 months after the relationship began, she noticed his odd new habit of taking his phone to the toilet, her gut told her something was off, but she chose to ignore it.
After a while, he stopped doing that and completely out of the blue, apologized to her and said he would try harder.
In her heart, she stored the first stone.
A month later she had been drowsy from a hard day at work, dozing off on the couch when suddenly he sprang to his feet and said he had to go out because his friend called and there was an emergency.
“But your phone didn’t ring, sweets” she said, apropos of nothing. His eyes darted away and back to her face, like smooth pebbles over mud. In that instant, she knew he was lying as her gut rolled over.
“Erm, it did but eh…you know you were so sleepy”, he blustered as he grabbed his keys and practically ran out.
She didn’t see him until the next night after work. She said nothing about his friend’s impromptu “emergency”.
In her heart, she placed a second stone next to the first.
By the time they had been together a year, she knew of 3 other women he was seeing regularly as well. In a blazing rage, she confronted him about them, and asked if her wanted to break up so she wouldn’t stand in his way. He knelt before her, supplication in every gesture as he promised to do better by her, to change his ways and focus on their relationship. She never confronted him, or asked him about the other women again.
But she was storing her stones.
She could see them sometimes in the succeeding months, those stones in her heart. They were slowly becoming a wall to seal off her love for him from herself. With each new indiscretion he committed, she built it. Each stone had a name, even though he’d given her none. She christened them herself, in her pain and sorrow. The Girl From Work, The Woman Who Sent the Nude Selfie, The School Friend he Claimed was Stalking Him…
At the end of their second year, he had gotten them a dinner reservation, and she thought he would propose. When dessert came, he told her he had met someone else, and that he didn’t want to be with her anymore. She stared into her lime and mango sorbet and said nothing. Her wall was so high now that she felt nothing, simply watched the words come out of his mouth. And then, in that numbness, she heard a click in her head and decided to end his life. So she made all the right noises, cried a little and asked him to take her home. Perhaps he felt sorry for her, for as they got into bed, he held her close, kissing her lips and stroking her throat. She was drifting off to sleep when she felt him slide into her.
How peculiar to lie here and not feel anything, she thought. And to think that his touch used to inflame me!
The next morning, a Saturday, she got him breakfast as always. She had a routine for this, a pattern that comforted her. Today she went through the motions calmly, almost zombie-like. She was calm when she locked the door, shut the windows and put on his Afro-beat music. The neighbours knew he listened to loud music on Saturday mornings as he did his chores. She was calm when the tomatoes splattered oil on her arm, when the tray was set, when she made his coffee and poured the contents of a bottle of insecticide in his egg stew and stirred, humming softly to herself.
She was calm as she watched him eat every bite of his delicious last meal, watching the yam go in his mouth and understanding that even his irritating chewing was another stone. She was calm when he threw up and screamed in pain, clutching his stomach.
He died noisily, spasming on the floor like a beached whale. She smelled his bowels as they evacuated, but still she was calm. How like him to be so full of shit! she thought. When he finally stopped twitching, she washed the dishes, took a shower and put all her things in the boot of her car. It took 4 trips, but she managed, working like an automaton. Only then did she allow herself to feel something other than that deathly calm. She could feel the strength and impenetrability of that wall, and wondered if she mightn’t go and get some frozen yogurt today, as a special treat to herself.
The idea cheered her up as she smiled, turned and left.