For the first time in five years Florence bumped into Brenda and regaled her with stories of her marvellous happily thereafter life in great detail.
“It’s so wonderful – so – so liberating,” Florence said.
Brenda had made an attempt at it five years before but just a trial, for three months. The results of her experiment had been cataclysmic prompting her to flee the town leaving no forwarding address.
She gave Florence her trademark contemptuous smile. Brenda was a self-proclaimed bachelorette of the century, a celebrated Miss Independent who is the bane of the modern woman and a free bird flying to wherever her needs and desires took her to. It took her by surprise with Florence’s support for the much talked about marital bliss. She had always felt Florence was a free spirit, exactly like her, always on the move, with no time for delusions of marriage conventions and restrictions.
Indeed, Florence had been a staunch supporter of ‘Single Ladies’ club, and at salons and their local joint she would drip-feed her friends with tales of broken hearts to her credit. How ironical, then, to hear the self-same serial heartbreaker extol the virtues of matrimony.
It was true. Florence had been liberated from the anxieties that had plagued her in her bachelorette days. She had fallen, deeply and irrevocably, head over heels for him. When he smiled her heart whooped for joy and her whole body swirled, somersaulted in space and landed, fluttering like a butterfly, in his arms. John had stood by her through the wedding ordeal, his arm around her tweeny-weeny waist, smiling protectively into her adorable eyes, anticipating her every whim.
John had told her that in him she had a home, and welcomed her to his heart. He cherished her to distraction and refused to let her do anything by herself. He told her that she was the most wonderful thing since plasma screen TV, football, beer and sports magazines. He cooked, cleaned, ironed and went to and fro work in time. He loved her in equal measure.
“I promised never ever to take someone for granted again,” John had told Florence, “and I’d not have you turned into a little skivvy. I did it once, but never again.”
However, as Florence narrated to Brenda her fairy tale marriage, Brenda couldn’t help the need to order for a shot of brandy to exorcise the demon of her ex-fiancé.
In their three-month come-we-stay trial marriage, Brenda had performed every function – and did it so cheerfully and with obvious pleasure – from the most menial tasks to hard labour (with no strokes of the cane) as if by magic. She adored him, cared for him, loved him and wanted their marriage to work.
Her weekends with the girls were taken by her fiancé, all the more reason she had to run away for no friend, even Florence, wanted to take her back when the bomb that was her booby-trapped bed of roses detonated. When all bridges that connected her to friends and family were incinerated to smithereens, she became mousy, drab in her conversations and sexually inexperienced in the eyes of her lover.
Well, her husband-to-be could be forgiven for that, but not her for smiling and courting the idea; not until one day when she decided that she was of much more use to mankind in a far off, under-developed third world country as a volunteer worker in an NGO or rehab centre than in Nairobi. A single SMS with only two words, ‘I’m gone’, was goodbye enough.
“Tell me more about this fairy godmother husband of yours,” Brenda told Florence. “Isn’t everybody else, when they are not screwing around, whining about how no good men, if not yet taken, are left to marry?”
Florence giggled. She herself had never believed in marriage, she had aggrandised fun in the relationships she got into, and luckily enough got men who were the same. They were always on the move after adding her to their female conquests lists, and when it ended no one blamed another. It was in the name of a free spirit.
Nonetheless, John, grieving his runaway fiancée who had apparently disappeared off the face of the earth, offered something new. He liked independent women, those with talents, and he no longer wanted a glorified sweet and subservient housekeeper. He embellished mutual responsibility in the relationship, even if it meant him being the fairy godmother. But Florence could be dependent on him, she told him so.
“That runaway fiancée he told you about,” Brenda said when Florence was done. “It’s me.”