Subtle Love

Reading

Gabriel was at a loss. He had tried many ways to earn her attention and affections. She wasn’t an easy woman to impress. His money and his looks did not excite her. What Gabriel did not know was that people express love in different ways. There are those that love crazily, those that love loudly, those that love normally and those that love subtly. And he fell in love with a girl raised in an African home, homes where emotions are kept subtle. The family loved each other, knew that they cared for each other but kept such emotions under wraps. This was the reason why he realized too late that she was in love with him.

They met at a wedding of one of his close male friends, Derek. A childhood friendship that won the test of time. He was happy that his best friend had found a woman like Annie. He had watched her dancing with the bride. Who was she and how didn’t he know her? He didn’t recall meeting her among the friends of the bride or groom. She was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. She had dark skin that was smooth and shiny and full lips glossy and pink. She danced like a gypsy moving fluidly with the beat of the song. He couldn’t keep his eyes of her.

He turned towards one of his friends and asked.

“Do you know her? The girl, dancing with Annie?”

“That’s Amanuah. She is Annie’s friend from Ghana. She moved here like four years ago. Annie is one of the first friends she made. They met at Brookes. Annie seems to like her a lot.

“Brookes? Studying?”

“Her masters. I don’t remember what. But I heard that she’s really smart. The type that intimidates you?”

He needed to speak to her. He didn’t want to approach her randomly and seem weird. He thought it would be better to ask Annie to introduce them. He walked towards them as they were leaving the dance floor.

“Congratulations Annie. You look really beautiful our precious bride.’

He waited for Annie to introduce them but she was quiet, “Hi, my name is Gabriel. You must be Amanuah. Nice to meet you.”

He could feel his palms sweating. He was baffled at his nervousness.

“Nice to meet you too, Gabriel. I have heard a lot about you from Derrick and Annie.”

“A lot about me?’ He said looking at Annie scared that his reputation had been ruined

“What exactly have you heard?”

“Just general stuff, mostly your childhood escapades.”

“I would love to hear what you know. Would you like to join me at the bar for a drink?”

“I don’t dri…!”

Annie cut in immediately.

“You should join him at the bar. They have different types of soft drinks and juice, Amanuah. I know you like apple juice. Go ahead”

He didn’t know that she had been aware of him watching her, asking about her. That he had been so obvious. That she knew him because Derek and Annie talked about him a lot. He   didn’t know that she thought he was the most handsome man she had ever seen.

“What would you like to drink Amanuah?” he looked into her eyes, “Am I pronouncing your name correctly?”

“Yes, its Amanuah. You are pronouncing it just fine.”

That night began their friendship. He spent so much time with her, riding bikes exploring London, going to the theatre, reading books, watching movies. He showed her his favorite places and she showed him her favorite places.

As Gabriel got to know her he realized that he had lived an easy life and not everyone is brought up the same way. He called his parents when he needed something; she called her parents three times a week just to check up on them. Gabriel didn’t have an extended family relying on him; Amanuah had a family that looked up to her and depended on her. They were so different and it scared him.

It was after two years before Gabriel met her family for the first time at a family Christmas celebration. A family where her grandmothers, her mother and her aunties had told her countless times to never rely on a man and to be her own savior. He was nervous and wanted them to approve of him. Luckily Amanuah had told him everything he needed to know to prepare himself. He brought gifts for everyone and dressed decently to impress. Then his mood went downhill when Amanuah introduced him as her friend. He couldn’t believe it and he didn’t say a thing then. When he finally caught her alone he asked her,

“Why did you introduce me as a friend?”

“Aren’t you my friend Gabriel? What else should I introduce you as?”

“I am your boyfriend!”

“No, you are not! You haven’t asked me to be your girlfriend neither have I asked you to be my boyfriend? We are just two friends that are emotionally and sexually attracted to each other.”

He could feel his heart about to pop from his chest,

“Will you be my girlfriend then? I promise to be good to you”

Gabriel saw her face light up,

“Yes, I will be your girlfriend.”

He was about to kiss her when she slapped her hand across his mouth,

”We are in my family’s house. If you want to leave alive you better behave yourself”

He couldn’t contain the happiness within him. He ate and danced with them as if he had known them for years. He felt so much at ease and couldn’t wait to be alone with Amanuah. He became fast friends with her elder brother, which to him was another success. If her brother likes me then that is a jackpot! Little did he know is that to love is to go through trials and hardships.

Gabriel wanted Amanuah to live with him so that they could spend more time together. She refused quite vehemently,

“I have a house, a room of my own. And I have lots of work to do. You will just be a distraction for me”

He looked cross,

“I am a distraction to you? Every other girl would be happy to be giving the chance to stay with their boyfriend”

He watched her laugh,

“Well we both know that I am not every other girl Gabriel. That is my decision and I want you to accept it! Please do not let as argue about this my love. Please?”

When she looked at him with those big brown eyes he always found himself conceding. And she had called him ‘my love, my love’. He would let her be for now but after some time he will try asking her again.

Two months into their relationship, Gabriel informed their friends and families about their relationship. Turned out Amanuah wasn’t so pleased about it.

“You can’t just tell everybody our business Gabriel.”

“It’s not just everybody. These are people we know Amanuah. People we hang out with and spend most of our time with. They will also be the ones at our wedding.”

“No they would not. Our wedding will be strictly by invitation. Half of the people you know only hang around you because of the money, and the respect knowing you brings to them. I don’t like a lot of people around me. You can think kindly of people. But don’t think everyone likes you or is your friend. That will be your downfall. I enjoy living a quiet life and I hope you understand that.”

Gabriel sat down on the sofa and said with all seriousness, “Maybe you are part of those who hang around me because of my money and the respect dating me brings to you?”

Her face turned emotionless. She picked up her bag and left his house without a word. He made the mistake of not going after her.

The days after that incident made him sick. Amanuah wasn’t picking his calls or texting him back. She was ignoring his existence and carrying on with her life. He regretted making that comment and tried to get access to her. Turns out there were other men waiting for him to make a big mistake so they could get a chance with her. He didn’t know what to do. Annie seeing his desperation decided to help him with the situation. Coercing Amanuah to meet him and talk it out. He walked into the room and was met with a frosty scowl,

“Why do you want to meet me? I don’t understand why you are here?”

He gathered courage and went straight to her, pulled her by the waist and kissed the breath out of her. When he released her he realized that she had been crying,

“I’m really sorry Amanuah. I’m really, really sorry. I shouldn’t have said that about you. I know that you are not with me because of my money or anything else. Forgive me?”

“I shouldn’t have been so angry about you telling everyone. I just hate it when people look at us and wonder why a white boy is dating a black girl. As if we couldn’t be equals. And I know you cherish me very much. I’m sorry for not answering your calls and text. I really did not how to answer back”

His relationship with Amanuah continued to grow as they spent more time with each other. They talked about everything, from the biggest things in their lives to the smallest things. And it was during one of these conversations that Amanuah told him that she wasn’t going to have sex with him until they got married. Gabriel was really shocked. He knew that Amanuah was a very open minded person. Never had he thought he would have to wait to touch her.

“I know it will be difficult for you but I need you to respect this decision. I made a promise to myself and God to keep myself for my husband.”

“Why are you telling me this now? I thought I was making progress into finally getting you to agree to us having an adult naptime. This is a joke right? You are just playing with me? Right Amanuah?”

“I am really not joking Gabriel. I am being very serious”’ she covered her mouth to stop from laughing.

“You are joking. I know you are open to the idea of doing new things plus you are laughing. This is a serious matter. That means you are a virgin? I will teach you everything you need to know, you don’t have to be worried about anything”

“Gabriel, sit down. As I was saying, I will only give myself to you when we say our vows at an altar before God. I wanted you to know so that you don’t pressure me. I know it will be hard for you and you have been waiting just fine already. We are have just one more month to our first anniversary”, she smiled happily at him.

When he was alone Gabriel kept thinking about what Amanuah had said. His brain did not want to accept or process the conversation. First, she didn’t want to live with him, know she didn’t want to have sex with him. We couldn’t stop but wonder if something was wrong with him. Whether he was doing things right in their relationship.

He spoke to Derek and Annie about the things happening.

Annie as he expected defended Amanuah, “You do know that she is a Christian. She has principles and beliefs that she sticks to and follows? I don’t think there’s anything wrong with your relationship. It’s just that you too are very different and the two of you need to understand this difference.

“I feel like she would give in to you eventually. You just need to try harder. Annie was difficult; she used to say no all the time and then consent to it after a few pokes. If you really want it put some more effort”

“That isn’t what you should be telling him Derek. He needs to understand her and not pressure her”

“Maybe she needs to understand him. As far as I am concerned he does the most in this relationship”

“That’s because you are his best friend and you are only seeing it from his point of view”

“Okay. Let him tell me the things she does for him so that I know that she is making an effort. Gabriel, go ahead”

“She helps me when I’m not able to make a decision. She’s wise for her age. She encourages me to do my best and gives me moral support. She cooks and cleans the apartment for me some time and encourages me to cook more and stop buying from outside. She is a really good cook. She sends me flowers with secret codes every week which I have found I like too much”

“She sends you flowers, like real flowers every week?” Derek looks at his wife, “You don’t send me flowers with secret codes Annie? She is doing all this for you; then she is basically your wife. You just need to make it official”

“She does more than that. She prays for you, she helps you with your work sometimes. She visits your parents and helps them in the house. She cooks for you and sends it to you at work. At least she does better than other girlfriends. I see her effort. Gabriel, do not do anything you will regret. Amanuah is independent and strong but she’s actually weaker than you think. Don’t join that list!”

Gabriel didn’t want to pressure her into doing what he wanted but he also wanted her to put extra effort in loving him. He tried so hard and finally on their first anniversary, he got her to agree to live with him,

“You do know my mother is not going to be happy about this. I will sleep in the guest room and you will sleep in your room. Promise me you wouldn’t come into my room or try touching me in any way”

“I promise I will not do any of those Amanuah. I will not do anything you don’t want”

Gabriel was so happy with this development. And because he had succeeded with this one he knew it was a matter of time before Amanuah gave in to him. He started devoting so much time and attention to her, even more than before. He touched her often in ways he knew would get to her. And he was succeeding.

One rainy evening, he joined Amanuah in the guest room and started touching her. She woke up disoriented and confused,

“What are you doing? You know you are not supposed to be here. I said no Gabriel!”

He silenced her with a kiss and had his way with her. In the morning when he woke up she wasn’t in the bed. She wasn’t in the house either. He got worried and started calling and texting her. She texted back and said she was fine and didn’t want to speak to him.

Amanuah returned to the apartment late in the evening. He saw that her eyes were swollen and red and realized that she had been crying

“Are you hungry? Do you want something to eat?

“No thank you. I have eaten already”

“What did you eat? Oh and I changed your bed sheets for you.”

“Thanks”

“Amanuah is something wrong. You look like you have been crying? I don’t think you should be alone. I will stay with you in the guest room”

“I want to be alone Gabriel. Please”

From then Amanuah became dull. She was a quiet person and now she had withdrawn further into herself. She did everything with Gabriel but not with as much enthusiasm as before. He didn’t know what to do about the awkward situation they were in and he knew this had happened because of his mistake. He decided to give her some time before speaking about it.

“From the test we made you are four weeks pregnant Amanuah. You are going to be a mother.

“Are you sure Doctor? I can’t be pregnant. I am not married yet and it happened just once. What am I going to do?

“You can have an abortion if you are not rea…?

Amanuah burst into tears, “No, I don’t want to have an abortion.”

“Then you have to look after yourself and your baby, eat healthy foods and liquids, exercise a bit and come for your appointments every time. We will contact you about everything through your email.”

“Thank you Doctor”

She hadn’t wanted this to happen. She had made a promised herself and God and she had done the opposite. She had let him take advantage of her. He had done as he pleased. What am I going to do now? What will be his reaction? I don’t know if he will take responsibility once he knows.

“You are back. Where did you go? I have been waiting for you”

“I didn’t go anywhere important. Why are you waiting for me?”

“I wanted us to talk about what happened. We can’t let this awkwardness hang over us, Amanuah. You have become a bit dull and silent. I want to know what you are thinking.”

“Shouldn’t you apologize first? I think that’s the first thing you should do before asking me about how I am feeling. If you really want to know then I’m not feeling really great. I am disgusted at myself for allowing you to take advantage of me. I am unhappy that I can’t even trust you to accept my decisions. I can’t trust you anymore Gabriel because you do the things you want without taking my wishes into consideration. I am tired of you saying you are the only one putting effort into this relationship. I feel sick to my stomach every time I think about what you did”

“Amanuah …”

“I haven’t finished talking. We have another problem as well. You asked where I am coming from. I am coming from the hospital. You didn’t use any protection and now I am pregnant. I am four weeks pregnant Gabriel. How do you think I am feeling? What am I going to do?”

He watched her cry. He didn’t know what to say.

“I don’t think I can continue with this anymore Gabriel. Say something?”

He didn’t know what to say. Too many things were happening at once “I don’t know what to say to you Amanuah. I need to think”. He left the house with her crying inside. When he returned in the evening, he saw that she had packed all her things and left his apartment.

Gabriel couldn’t reach her for several weeks. No one knew where she had gone. Every one was worried and it was because of him. He told her parents and siblings about what had happened and got a beating from her crying mother, “Why did you do that to my precious daughter? Why didn’t you respect her? Why Gabriel? Why?”

“I am so sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt her. I was selfish and didn’t think about the consequences. I want to marry her. I want to look after her and our child. I really love your daughter with all my heart and I want to make her happy. I need your help? I need to know where she is. I need to apologize to her”

“She is in Ghana but she will be back in four weeks. I don’t think she would want to meet you. You really hurt her. When you love someone, you don’t hurt them, and when someone loves you, you don’t hurt them as well. As for she forgiving you we are not going to help you with that. It is her choice on how to move forward with you”

“I want to do something nice for her and I need your support. A surprise birthday party with family and friends. She shouldn’t know that I’d be there. I don’t want her to run away again. I bought a house for her, for us to live in if she accepts my proposal. I know that she has a car but I bought her another one. I will give them all to her even if she doesn’t accept me. And I will provide for her and our child.”

He watched her from the shadows just as he had done the first day he met her. She’d put on weight and he could see her pregnancy bump. She looked even more beautiful than before. Gabriel you are an idiot for hurting her he thought. The plan was for her to enjoy the party and later on be led to the garden alone so that he could talk to her. He was so nervous that he had visited the bathroom five times already. When the time was right he waited behind the rose bush. He watched her walk into the garden. She went to the patio and sat down.

“You can come out now Gabriel”, she was looking at the rose bush.

He come out and walked towards her. She wouldn’t look him in the face or meet his eyes

“You didn’t have to do all this. They said you wanted to say something to me. I am listening.”

He knelt down before her, “I wanted to apologize for everything I did to you. I know that you might not forgive me but I want to tell you that I regret everything. I want to apologize for taking advantage of you, for not taken responsibility immediately when you told me about this little one.”

“Is that all? If that is it then I would like to leave now.”

He got scared, “I, I wanted to ask you to be my wife, to spend the rest of your life with me – if you’ll have me. I’ll take care of your and our little one. I would never let you lack anything and I will never do anything that you don’t want again.” She looked unimpressed.

“This house, I bought it for you and our child. The car you saw outside I bought it for you as well. I’ll give you anything you want. I promise.”

“Those are not the things I want Gabriel. I can take care my child and myself without you. I want you to love me, respect me, trust me and understand me. That’s the only thing I want from you.”

“I promise you that I love you, I respect you, I trust you and I understand you. I will spend the rest of my life giving you these if you would have me again Amanuah?”

“Didn’t you get a ring?” she asked holding out her hand to him.

He started crying, “Yes I did. Let me get it out for you.

Everyone had been quietly peeping through the windows watching the two. And when Gabriel put the ring on Amanuah’s finger they started clapping.

 

THE END

By Karen Djoleto

Some readers may have met Karen Djoleto at the Jericho Book Fair. Her short story gives us an insight into Ghanaian attitudes to relationships. She is a third year Publishing Studies student of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. She was born in Accra, Ghana. She loves reading, writing, watching movies and listening to music. She wants to entertain and impact the world in a positive way as a writer.