Chinedu wanted to propose so badly. But the time wasn’t right. He felt it’d be better to get it over with before the re-testing because he wasn’t sure he’d be able to stay strong for the both of them if she was HIV positive.
As he drove Sheila home he thought of Richard. He had agreed to see a psychologist and that was a start. Chinedu knew he had to do all he could to be the friend Richie needed him to be. The man he saw now was broken and had lost all hope but Chinedu knew for sure that as long as there was life there was hope. He sighed. Richie had once been so vibrant, so full of energy and optimism but now he’d allowed his circumstances overwhelm him even to the extent that he was prepared to hurt anyone whom he believed was to blame for his predicament. Even Sheila. Chinedu felt torn between the two people he loved. He hated Richard for hurting Sheila but he knew Richard was going through so much pain. He snapped out of his reverie when he heard Sheila’s voice.
“Thanks for bringing me home Chinedu.”
“Sheila you don’t have to thank me, that’s what boyfriends do.”
“I thought we had broken up?”
“Like I said at the hospital, I’m never ever leaving your side again.”
“You don’t have to be so dramatic. I’ll be fine…”
Chinedu thought about how ‘fine’ she was when he found her passed out on Richard’s bed. He loved this woman so much. He thought of the ring he’d bought some days after he took her to meet his family. He wanted that ring on her finger soon…
“You seem very pensive today Chinedu”
“Just overwhelmed. Almost lost you then was so grateful when I heard the results were normal-”
“But the nurse said it isn’t confirmed till the test is repeated in 6 weeks.”
“It’s confirmed to me Sheila”
“How do you even know Richard?”
“It’s a long story but I’m glad I got to you in time…”
“Y…you rescued me? Please tell me what happened. I don’t remember much.”
Chinedu proceeded to narrate the story of how his instincts had led him to Richard’s house. Telling the story made him re-live each painful detail and his voice kept breaking.
“…And then I carried you to the hospital. Can’t keep thanking God enough that I got there in the nick of time.”
“Did you really get there on time? He tried penetrating me twice but I was dry, isn’t the forceful entry enough to give me HIV? Thanks anyway, it could have been much worse. I’ll forever be in your debt. As for Richard…”
“Baby don’t even think about Richard and you’ll be ok I promise?”
“What if I’m not ok? What if I end up sick and twisted like Richard? Will I even live to see the end of 2013?”
Sheila broke down in tears.
Chinedu was approaching her street but he swerved sharply and headed for his instead.
“W…where are we going?”
Chinedu didn’t respond. There was never going to be a perfect time. He might as well do it now.
The drive to Chinedu’s house was a silent one. The only sound in the car was Sheila’s sniffles every now and again. As he parked in his driveway, he thought of the most romantic way he could propose. Life had a way of throwing a spanner in the works. He’d imagined a very grand proposal amidst cheering friends not a sober, tear-filled one but this woman was his wife and he needed her to know for certain that she never had to be alone ever again. He would be there for her, he would protect her.
“Please sit down Sheila, I’ll only be a second.”
Sheila thought of all the happy memories she’d made in this house. This was probably going to be the last time she sat on this very chair. The chair she’d been sitting in when Chinedu had kissed her for the very first time. Sheila loved him so much but Richard had determined her fate. The irony of the whole thing was if Richard hadn’t done what he did, she and Chinedu might still be apart, pretending not to care, not even on speaking terms but now here they were together yet they could never be together. Big, fat tears rolled down her cheeks.
“Damn you Richard, God will punish you!”
Sheila sobbed into a throw pillow, she felt like her heart was broken into a million pieces and each piece was piercing into her. She didn’t want Chinedu to see her like this. She had to be brave. She brought out a handkerchief from her bag and began wiping her face hurriedly as she heard his footsteps approaching.
“Sheila, there’s something I wanna ask you. I’ve been waiting for the right time to ask but I realise now that now is as good a time as any-”
“Yes I slept with him in the past. I’m not sure when exactly he caught the disease but chances are even if he didn’t give it to me on Sunday, he’d already done that ages ago. I’m sorry…”
“I don’t care about your past Sheila. I know the woman that I fell in love with and your past contributed to making you the strong, independent woman you are today. We all have pasts baby. That wasn’t what I wanted to ask you!”
“Sheila will you marry me?”
“Are you crazy?”
“Yes, crazily in love with you”
“Chinedu if this is a joke, please stop it. I have HIV, why would you be so mean as to offer me something I can never hope to have? And even if you were crazy enough to marry me and risk catching the disease, what would your family and friends say when they find out?”
“Baby I don’t care about the disease, we all die some day. I’d rather spend my living moments with the one woman I truly care about. And you know I don’t give a damn about any other person.”
“I can’t Chinedu. Please don’t ask me to make such a decision. I love you too much to be the cause of your death…”
“Then marry me Sheila because if you don’t it will be the death of me. You are my missing rib boo, I feel it deep down in my heart.”
Chinedu got on one knee and put Sheila’s hand over his heart. Sheila couldn’t trust her legs to stand. She couldn’t believe this was happening. How she had hoped and prayed that one day Chinedu would propose but now she wasn’t even sure she’d live to see the wedding day and she couldn’t imagine putting him at risk. The tears rolled down her cheeks, life was so cruel.
Chinedu took her hand and slipped the most beautiful ring onto her finger. Then he held her tight. Sheila turned her face away when he tried to kiss her. Her tears wetting his shirt.
Sheila was a most unwilling bride. Everyday when she woke up, she’d mark the date, counting down to the day when she’d know her fate. She was almost afraid to say the word ‘wedding’ feeling that if she did, she’d jinx it and it would never hold. In her constant nightmares, it did hold but Chinedu died as soon as she kissed him. She always woke up drenched in sweat. She avoided kissing Chinedu like the plague and refused to wear the engagement ring or even allow Chinedu bring his family for a formal introduction till she knew her fate. It was the longest 6 weeks in her entire life and every day of those excruciating 42 days, Chinedu had promised to stand by her whether she was negative or positive. He was certain she’d be negative and his unwavering optimism irritated her at times. He’d started wedding plans in earnest, booking the venue, getting vendors. She couldn’t believe the man.
6 weeks later!
Chinedu held Sheila’s hand tight as the lab scientist took her blood.
“It’s gonna be ok babe I promise.”
They were asked to wait for 45 minutes.
Those forty-five minutes were the longest forty-five minutes in history. Sheila couldn’t stop the tears. She knew what the result was gonna be. She felt bad for Chinedu. His prayers and optimism couldn’t change facts. They’d stay friends but she was certain he’d rethink the whole marriage ish when the realisation of her HIV status hit him.
“Madam your result is ready.”
Sheila asked Chinedu to allow her go into the office alone. She didn’t wanna have to look at his face when she heard the news for the first time. Before the result was given to her, the man went through the routine counselling. She didn’t hear a word he said, thankfully was done in no time.
“Madam you are HIV negative.”
Sheila began to sob loudly.
“My life is over.”
Hearing him pronounce her fate made the dams holding her tears burst. She cried like her heart would break. She’d never be Chinedu’s wife. She’d die a lonely woman in the prime of her life just because one man decided to punish her for a sin she knew nothing about.
“Madam you should be rejoicing, I said you are HIV negative.”
“Yes, you do not have the virus.”
Sheila was stunned. Hadn’t she heard right the first time? Could this really be possible?
“Are you sure?”
“Positive ma’am. No I mean I am positive that you are HIV negative!”
“Thank you Jesus, thank you sir.”
Sheila grabbed the result and ran as fast as her legs could carry her out of the office.
“Baby what was-”
“We are planning a wedding Chinedu! I’m not sick! I’m gonna be married!”
Sheila was crying, relief washing all over her. Chinedu pulled her into his arms and gave her a long wet kiss outside the lab. That kiss was long overdue.
“Let’s go home my wife…”
Have a lovely night peeps. Xoxoxo