Short Story: Love Is A Risk! (II) – By Manasseh Azure Awuni

I dreaded Dulcie’s “repulsive disorder” as she had put it. But I also dreaded losing her. And falling in love out of sympathy was out of the question.

But matters of love the heart, they say, has a mind of its own and can make its own decisions. When it comes to love, the heart and the mind are usually engaged in a battle.

“What at all have you seen in this lady that you can’t reason a little?” Mind would ask.

“Who told I can’t reason? I say she is the one I love and that’s all,” Heart would reply.

“That’s irrational. In loving someone, you have to take many factors into account, and so far, you haven’t given me any reason why you are so mad about this girl, who has nothing to offer our master,” Mind would not relent.

“Irrational? In whose judgement? I have told you that she is the one I love and there is nothing you can do to change my mind, my friend.”

“You’re, indeed, very funny. Do you have any mind of your own?” Mind would ask.

“Then how do I take those reasonable decisions? Don’t ever think I don’t think before arriving at my decision,” Heart would prove.

“Remember, our master is no mean a person. He can get any woman of his choice to marry so why do you settle on this good-for-nothing bitch and refuse to be a little reasonable? Remember at his work place that beautiful, humble and well-bred graduate is dying over him. I hope you have not forgotten about pretty medical assistant who lives in the next flat. Would it not be with enormous pride if our master married her? What about the catechist’s daughter who is the manager of that multinational company? You seem to blind to all these ladies with enviable and sterling qualities. Instead you’re rooting for this one who paints her body with all manner of coulours and wears grotesque make-up. When I look at her I see a Hindu goddess. You…”

“Enough!” Heart would snarl. “Have I ever forced my decision on our master? You talk and I also talk but he always listens to me, despite my irrationality as you’ve said. Let’s not quarrel over this. It is he who decides and at the end of the day, we’ll see who wins,” Heart would conclude teasingly.

And the heart would always win.

So if you see a young man or lady dying over someone you may call “a bitch,” do not complain. The mind is always subservient to the heart in the decision making process when it comes to love. The decision of the heart is final.

So it was in my case. Despite the trauma I had gone through in the past and could not sit in the same class with an epileptic classmate, my heart said it was either Dulcie or no any other lady, much to the displeasure of my mind, which thought otherwise. But as the Sunday, approached, my mind for the first time began to reason with my heart. It started when the import of the risk I was about to take dawned on me like day as I lay thoughtfully in bed one night. How severe was her sickness that all the men who came her way could not bear with it and had to abandon such a brainy beauty? I just lay still and listened my heart and mind enact their usual drama.

“But have you forgotten that love is a risk?” Heart asked Mind.

“For the first time, you’ve said something sensible,” Mind told Heart.

Yes, love is indeed a risk. The character of your partner can change even if he or she has the best of character. And as I considered the hell I was being forced by love to enter, I realized that I wasn’t an angel myself. Besides, everybody is a potential disabled person. I had been to the Korle Bu-Accident Centre before and when that thought crossed my mind, I saw Dulcie as an able bodied beauty.

A well-built handsome young man I worked with once told us that he was going to Koforidua over the weekend to see his “flower”. The following Monday we were shocked to hear that he was involved in an accident on his way back and would forever be confined to the wheelchair. It was there at the accident centre that I later saw this pretty lady banker and friend, who had undergone plastic surgery after an accident and made me lose appetite when I saw her.

Did their spouses bargain for these conditions? What if this happened to either Dulcie or me after marriage? Would we call it quits? Many rational thoughts occurred to me and I became philosopher of love as I thought pondered over my life with Dulcie.

I smiled to myself, and there and then I picked my phone and dialed her number. I wanted to tell her that I loved her. But she wouldn’t listen.

“Please, I said I needed the reply on Sunday. Don’t rush,” she advised. “The last to dump me accepted to go out with me the moment I told him about my deformity, but what happened? Sunday is not far from now. Please think about it well. I want you to tell me in person.”

So finally the Sunday came. And we met.

“Please, there is one thing I want to tell you. I can’t tolerate cheating. And I can’t forgive you if you cheat on me,” she said, her facial expression corroborating the words that parted her dainty lips. “If you poison or shoot me and I survive, you may come back to plead and I’ll forgive you. But if you cheat on me, not even God, and I mean it, not even God can intervene. I’m happy you love me as I am. I assure you that when it comes to my love, you have no competitor. Let’s only pray that the good Lord see us through. I know it will be difficult for both of us but there is nothing a willing heart has never achieved before.”

I thanked her and promised to be hers, and hers alone.

“When do you want us to get married?” she asked me. “You seem not to be thinking about that now?” she added when she found out that that aspect was nowhere near my current plans after a long chat about our plans for the future.

I told her I had to put one or two things together before I could think about marriage. But that was not to say that I was still unsteady about the decision I had taken, I assured her. And so from that Sunday, Dulcie became my lover. It was more than a dream come true. And I was proud of her, which she knew.

When I first met her I told myself that getting her to accept my proposal would put me at the apex of Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs. But now that I had her, I realized that I was still miles away from self-actualisation in life. How could I marry when I hadn’t got any decent salary, no decent accommodation?

Due to her ailment, I didn’t enjoy much of her company and the joy that comes with dating such a beautiful jewel. I can count the number of times we went out in all the three years we dated. She told me that the disease was so disgraceful that it came where there were a lot of people. I prayed it never occurred in my presence, but one terrible morning it happened.

She had paid me a visit and when it was time for her to leave, she collapsed when she held the door knob and was about to step out. My immediate reaction was to run outside, which I did. It was only then that I realized nothing had changed since the day I struggled in the primary school to escape from the epileptic girl who had suffered convulsion in a Math class. I shook violently in every limb and could not get into the room to help her. Then a thought flashed my mind and I obeyed. That seemed to be the only excuse that could save me, no matter how stupid or irrelevant it was to her condition. About twenty minutes later, I returned into the room with an ice block. She sat traumatised, and beside her was what appeared to be a foamy discharge from her mouth. I was horrified. I explained that I had read somewhere that the sick person’s temperature usually rose in such circumstance, hence the need for ice to stabilize it. I faltered in my concocted story and knew Dulcie was too smart for that.

That incident shook the very foundation of our relationship and the only reason I thought we didn’t break up was because we lived far apart. That gave either of us time to overcome our different shocks. After my National Service in Cape Coast, I secured a job there while she worked in Accra. We visited each other once a while and as time went on, I realized I could not have made a better decision in accepting to go out with her though I still dreaded the day she might suffer an attack in my presence.  But for how long could I avoid that? I psyched myself up by concentrating on her positive qualities, which she had in abundance. Dulcie’s inner beauty outshone her outward appearance and I found it rare and pleasantly strange.

On the day of our wedding, I insisted that the ceremony be a modest one. A large crowd would be a disservice to us. But it was not going to be as I had wished. She came from a family that was well respected for everything people would like to be associated with – a good name, wealth, humility and respect for others. So in the church auditorium sat close to a thousand and five hundred congregants and well-wishers.

I had asked some prayer warriors from my church to keep praying throughout the ceremony against any eventuality. Weddings are sacred and anything could happen, I told them. I kept the real prayer topic from them. I had made a vow to Dulcie and that aside; I would not want to spoil the joy with which people came to witness the wedding. And the only way to keep a secret is to keep it with you alone. Tell one trusted friend and the whole world would be humming with the rumour.

“Can you believe he is marrying an epileptic?” one would whisper.

“So is this thing true? Is it because of the beauty or the money in her family?” another will join.

“Have you forgotten that love, they say, is blind?” And so it would continue. Like harmattan fire licking the grassland of Bongo.

My mother was the first to realize that I wasn’t my usual self during the wedding. She sent my younger sister, Gifty, to tell me to look a bit cheerful even if I had some scores to settle with the bride.

“Mummy says she is not happy with the way you carry yourself,” she whispered so faintly that I heard her because her lips were almost in my ear. Dulcie must not hear that. “She says there is no one who has ever married, hundred percent pleased with his or her spouse.”

But mine was not dissatisfaction with the bride. It was fear. The fear of something they did not know.

“My Guardian Angel, I know how you feel and I understand you but cheer up. I know the God we serve will not disgrace us. He will not allow our enemies to gloat over our shame,” Dulcie later told me when she realized that I was too moody for such an occasion. With those words, I lightened up. She was a lady who gave me hope with her words when I was downhearted.

I put on an artificial smile and responded to the cheers from friends, relatives and fellow workers. If they had known what I was going through, they surely would have kept their cheers to themselves and prayed for me.

But God being so good, we sailed through the wedding and the after-reception without any incident.

“Thank you, Jesus, for this wonderful day,” I sighed and fell on the bed of our plush hotel room, where we were to have our two-week honeymoon. But Dulcie had something to say and from the way she looked, the joy that lighted my heart after that incident-free wedding retraced its steps to where it had come from.

“What is it, my Angel?” I asked, very worried. Then she started to weep.

“Please, stop crying and tell me whatever it is,” I consoled her and wiped her tears with a handkerchief. My mind revisited the day she told me about her predicament. It went like this. But what was it that she had hidden from me all this while? Why had she not told me but waited for me to commit myself, knowing full well that there was nothing I could do at this juncture? How was I going to bear this? I knew love was a risk but there was a limit. No sensible frog will jump into boiling water just because it likes water. Anger was beginning to well up in me even before I heard her.

“Please, promise you’ll forgive me and continue to love me if I tell you what I’m about to say,” she said, still sobbing and looking intently at me.

“I love you and will always love you, come what may,” I said uneasily.

“I’m not epileptic!” she said.

And I froze. But she spoke on, ignoring the tell-me-you’re-joking expression on my face.

“I just wanted to marry someone who truly loves me. And thank God I’ve found you. Seven different men have come my way, but they’ve all failed my love test. Some just wanted to have an affair with me and find their way but when I insisted that there would not be any sex before marriage, they left. They could not bear the shame that comes with such a sickness when it occurs in public, I think.  I also lied to you that they used me and dumped me in order to make my story sound more believable. I’m still a virgin.”

Another chilling revelation! I looked at her with unbelieving eyes. Then she continued.

“You have proven that you truly love me and I promise to reciprocate your love in whatever way I can. I’ll forever remain faithful to you in all things. I love you and will do anything to please you. Forgive me for robbing you of the joy of dating and courting. I will make up for that in whatever way I can. I love you, my Guardian Angel.”

I sat still. I had questions to ask but that would be later. I was too shocked to think clearly and ask any question. Besides, they were not necessary at this moment. I raised my head and looked at the lady seated by me on the bed. She looked more beautiful than ever.

Our eyes met. And we stared fixedly at each other. Then I could not see her again. Tears blurred my vision. And I cried colourless tears onto the pink shirt I wore under my French suit. She cried too. Then we held hands. Then our mouths got locked. Our clothes began to peel, involuntarily. Those expensive clothes were thrown away like pieces of rags. We were later to discover one of her hand gloves under the bed when we were leaving two weeks later. They didn’t matter at that moment. Soon we were in a world of our own, out of planet earth. “Jeeesus!” I heard it but I didn’t know whose lips it escaped.

We melted into one, and then into space we flew. And true to her word, she was untouched, a pure virgin.

It was a memorable night, a night I would never forget for the rest of my life. And Dulcie forever remains the most precious thing I’ve discovered among all of God’s creation, especially when I discovered after twenty years that she had no such sickness. She is a lady I could never have won in any fair contest, not even with Oberon’s Potion! But I understood the number one principle of love — that love is a risk.

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