She knew this might happen someday but she had never planned out her reaction or anything. However, when Sara displayed her left hand with a new huge diamond stone on her ring finger, Triza knew exactly how she felt about it.

“He proposed!” Sara squealed much to the delight of the three other girlfriends who sat around the table. They all (except Triza) leaned forward to look more closely at the ring , then oh and ah at the magnificent thing. Triza too was staring at the ring- glaring more like it.

Far from the compliments she was getting for her stone, Sara looked up at her best friend and her joy faltered. She really wanted Triza to be happy for her. She also knew that was highly unlikely where Steve was concerned and from Triza’s evasive look, it was crystal that she was not pleased at all.

However, whatever nasty comments Triza had, she kept to herself and took a sip- a huge sip- of her vodka. Then she looked high up at the TV right opposite her and behind Sara. There was a rugby match going on. Triza knew nothing about rugby.

“Triza?” Sara called and Triza reluctantly tore her gaze from the telly. She tried to smile and failed miserably.

“I know you still don’t like Steve…” Sara begun.

“Oh come on!” Fiona exclaimed at stared incredulously at Triza who was right next to her, “Are you going to pick a fight over this too? It’s a beautiful ring, and he proposed to her. You should be happy for her even though you don’t like Steve!”

The other two didn’t join in but Triza guessed Fiona had spoken for them.

Triza took another swig of her drink suppressing her very unwelcome comments. Sara looked happy, and how could she not? The ring looked beautiful  and exquisite – expensive too- that much Triza was sure. But it was from Steve. Sure he and Sara  had been on and off and it had been three years but after all the drama, he proposed and she just accepted? Why? Triza wondered inside.

Was she supposed to pretend to be happy that her best friend was marrying a man who had cheated on her more than twice, and who had slapped her once?

The rest of the girls were now glaring at her as though she was ruining the fun. Regina was the married one who knew Triza’s perception of marriage and steered clear of the topic but otherwise, they were great pals. Melissa was the single virgin who believed true love waits and was dating a nice accomplished guy who was C.E.O. of a round of hotels. Triza thought her naïve. And Fiona was the single mom with a half-caste daughter in preschool, and a string of wealthy men who fell under her spell and paid the bills for her. She had a boutique at Yaya center- thanks to her charms and not her business mind if she had any.

Triza found Fiona very superficial and they rarely had anything to talk about. In fact, they never talked at all unless all four girls were present.

And while the other girls also thought of Fiona as superficial oftimes, tonight, they were siding with her on the notion that Triza was being unreasonable, stubborn, and even though they wouldn’t say it out loud,  a bad friend who was maybe jealous even.

Realizing she was out of a drink to fill her mouth up, Triza looked at her slim watch and gasped, “Oops! I have an early morning. Gotta run!”

She picked up her sling bag and stood up quickly to avoid any further confrontation. She did have an early morning. The event tomorrow begun at 11- and as the organizer, she had to be there earlier of course. Well not too early ,admittedly, but it was still a valid excuse.

She turned around the corner quickly and out of sight of the booth her girls remained in, now in uncomfortable silence.

“Trish! Wait!” Sara’s familiar voice called after her in the red-carpeted corridor leading to the elevator and stairs.

Triza noticed the elevators would take time opening and was tempted to take the stairs next to them and pretend she hadn’t heard. She could easily lose Sara who was in sky high heels while she, Triza, wore a gladiator low heel.

“Don’t pretend you haven’t heard me!” Sara called and Triza stopped so close to reaching the elevators. Sighing, she turned around to her cat-walking angry friend.

“Seriously?” Sara spread her long arms out and when Triza feigned confusion , she crossed her arms, “You’re just going to walk away like that when you’re supposed to celebrate with me, eh?”

She really was hurt but trying to hide it in her over-the -board diva finger-snap; Triza realized and felt truly sad, “I’m sorry,” she conceded and put an arm around her bare neck.

“For what exactly? Walking away or not being happy for me?” Sara asked.

Gone was the act; she was all serious now. A couple walked towards the two girls. Realizing they were in the way of the elevator entrance, the two friends walked to the small corner to the left, where a French window gave a view of a sprawling night-lit Nairobi below. The city was very much awake and Triza wished she had spent her Friday having a lone movie marathon. But Sara had insisted and there is no saying no to an insistent Sara- especially when she adds that she’s getting you dinner at The Hilton.

Triza bit her lip wishing very much that she had just said no and switched off her phone. But now she was stuck here wondering how to answer her friend.

How could she tell her? Did Sara not know already? Why was she asking for what she already knew?

“Don’t marry him,” Triza blurted out before she could stop herself. She regretted it for a split second then realized that that was exactly what she wanted her bestie to do. With more bravado, she turned to a dumbfounded Sara and said again, “Do not marry him.”

Sara put her palm on her temple, and then shook her head.

“I will marry him,” she said then crossed her arms and added, “I want to marry him.”

The look she had in her eye was daring Triza to suggest the contrary. Triza skipped the bait.

“Why do you want to marry him?” Triza asked sincerely.

Sara shrugged and threw her hands in the air, “Well, he proposed and it was so romantic and…”her eyes got dreamy and Triza felt like slapping her. “ I love him and he loves me too.” Sara shrugged again rubbing her left palm over her bare right arm.

Triza didn’t dispute that Steve loved Sara. The things he did for her could only be out of love – and having lots of money to spend on her helped his case too. But the other fact she couldn’t dispute, even though Sara loved to ignore it, was that, Steve generally loved women- beautiful women.

He loved himself a lot too. His miles and miles of awesome clothes and designer shoes made Triza teasingly dub him “Barbie” the first times when she hadn’t known all there was to him.

However, the night Sara had called her, crying over the slap he gave her after a heated argument, had sealed him as a jerk in Triza’s mind. It was the last nail in his coffin after cheating on Sara with at least 3 women – and those were the ones they’d found out about.

“I really need you to be happy for me.” Sara shook Triza and brought her back to the unpleasant present, “Accept that Steve is going to be a part of my life- because I really want you to be my wedding planner…”

Time stopped and Triza quickly shrugged Sara’s hands off her shoulders. She blinked at her to see if she was serious and when she realized that Sara meant what she’d said, she burst out laughing at the incredulity of it all. Sara smiled in relief not having got the memo.

“First of all, I plan events but not weddings- I steer clear of planning weddings – you know that. And second, why would I plan a wedding I am totally against?” Triza shook her head like it was the most obvious thing.

“You can’t be serious.” Sara said flatly.

“I am. Don’t marry the jerk, honestly!” Sara exclaimed.

“He’s not…”

“Oh he’s a jerk alright and you know it!” Triza retorted.

“You don’t know all there is to him!”

“I think I know him quite well to know he’s not good enough,” Triza said and Sara’s eyes flared.

“I decide what’s good enough for me!” Sara shouted and jabbed at her chest, “This is not about you! For once keep your opinions to yourself and be happy for someone else! This is so not about you!”

Triza’s jaw dropped and her mind was too far gone to choose her next words.

“Not about me? This is not about me?” she frowned angrily, “I’m the one who has stayed with you nights as you cried over the asshole cheating on you! I’m the one who has to go lying to your boss cuz you’re depressed…over the jerk ! And I am damned well the one who drove to Steve’s house in the middle of the night to pick you because you were afraid he might hit you again! Not about me! Are you fucking kidding me?!” Triza shouted and realized she was crying.

She had never told these things to her best friend but Sara reminded her a lot of her late aunt; the one who stayed with a man that constantly hit her and the children, who she never stood up for. Her favorite cousin committed suicide and everyone in the family knew why, but no one talked about it- or her.

Triza recalled Sara donning shades during a film festival she had invited her. It was a night event but Sara had refused to take off the dark glasses the whole time and Triza had a theory why.

The way Sara stood up for Steve made Triza scared that she will turn into that woman who stays on even though she is abused. That was exactly what Triza had envisioned the night Steve slapped Sara. Yet that had been before the wedding situation. And now that it was really about to happen, Triza could see herself as that aunt to whom the children and mommy ran to, for sometime, before they went back home for even more abuse. She was so not ready for that role!

“Steve will never hit me again,” Sara said, her lip trembling, “He promised.”

“oh, gosh!” Triza threw her hands up and walked away. This was going nowhere. Plus, thinking of her dead cousin had angered her already. She needed some time away from Sara and her string of blunders.

“It is my choice,” Sara shouted after her as Triza reached the elevator, “Steve is my choice and whether you like it or not, you’ll just have to deal with it.” Sara said and glared at her friend.

Triza looked up at the blinking digits above the elevator. Four more floors…

“It’s either you stand by me as your best friend or you don’t,” Sara added feebly and wiped a tear off her cheek, like a spoilt child. She could afford that now since there were no other people around the lobby. Triza stared on upwards. Red blinking digits… two floors… one floor, and then the elevator pinged and opened.

She walked in without a second look at Sara.

A fuming Sara stomped to the lifts and stood in between the doors stopping. Triza looked at her tiredly.

“You’re my best friend. Friends stick to each other even if they have differences,” Sara said, her  anger now gone and replaced with a pleading that was very unlike her.

“I will never like Steve, Sara. And you’re my best friend, but I will not stand by you on this. You’re alone in this.”

The elevator protested its being open for too long but Sara held on like Samson pushing the pillars.

“Okay, so what? Now you aren’t my friend anymore? Is that it? Just because I’m marrying Steve?” she asked and Triza sighed fooling with the string of her sling bag.

“I am your friend. But I just won’t be there to watch you say your vows to Steve and pretend to be happy when you’re having kids. Am done… Seriously. Am so done.” She looked up at Sara; her eyes dry now and realized that from the moment her friends had announced the proposal, she had  intended to not attend the wedding.

Sara , who hadn’t  gotten the message yet , smiled.

“Done with what? Me?” Sara walked into the elevator and it closed swiftly behind her. She stood next to Triza, leaning back against the glassy walls. This felt a lot like a lesbian breakup and the thought would have made Triza laugh if it weren’t for the fact that she clearly saw her place in all this.

She would be stuck in this role forever; the good friend who went out of her way to help her best friend shoulder the consequences of her foolish decisions. And now that the wedding made Steve’s violent tendencies even more glaring, Triza accepted the unsettling fact that she resented her best friend for saying yes to what will probably be an abusive marriage.

Why do people do that?! Triza wondered and felt suddenly weary.

She was not good at fighting for people who didn’t fight for themselves and in that moment of clarity, Triza saw her best friend as her abused aunt who did nothing to protect her daughter as she was pushed to her early death by her a father. For even after the suicide, she never stopped her husband from battering the remaining children!

Sara was so much like her deceased aunt Triza felt sick just thinking of what might transpire from here on.

“I won’t attend your wedding,” said Triza in zombie-like trance. The elevator glided smoothly downwards- too silent- as though the world were watching with all breaths held.

“You can’t do that to me.” Sara whispered so sure, and Triza wanted to snicker and say “Just you watch me!” but this was not a dare. It was the truth.

Here at last, standing in the elevator with her best friend of six years, Triza realized the line had been drawn at last.

There was a time she couldn’t say no to whatever adults did;  even her own mother had looked the other way rather than tell off her violent brother-in-law. That time, Triza had thought that people couldn’t change and you had to accept them as they were without any say because they were family.

Then there was a time she couldn’t run away with her cousin when she asked her to and instead, she had thought that it was enough to just be there for people you love and absorb their pain.

And heaven knew she had absorbed enough of her cousin’s to know that she never wanted anything to do with an abusive relationship- not while she could see it coming.

The elevator pinged at the ground floor and Triza turned to her best friend. She wanted to hug her but she didn’t. And while the elevator door gaped open to let them out, all the things she had to say were condensed into just two, “I’m sorry.”

She walked out of the elevator without a second look back.

Sara would probably go back to her girls and then leave, upset. Then she’d get home and phone Steve; and Steve would suggest that Triza was being dramatic as usual and that Sara should just give her time.

And Sara would try to call her …

So Triza removed that possibility immediately. Standing outside the Hilton and signaling to a cab, Triza searched Sara’s number on her phonebook and blocked her. Maybe it was just for tonight- or maybe it was the beginning of their end- only time will tell. Triza thought as she got into the cab. Deep down however, she sensed it was probably the latter but she could not bear to think of that now. Not tonight. She had had enough.

Even with the empty feeling in the pit of her stomach, she knew that if it came to burning bridges, this was one she would have to torch; for her own good and for her cousin too- if that mattered anymore. There is a fine line drawn when a friend constantly puts you through things you’d rather not go through, and now, Triza knew what side she would stand on; her side.

If there was one thing she could fight for, it was her peace of mind. And if that meant playing Judas, she could very well live with that.

by Hellen Masido

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