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Photo credit: Kandey Alhassan

I love the ambiance in my office on Fridays. The office is filled with positive vibes because the staff engages in games that tend to foster the bond of camaraderie and togetherness. Nonetheless, Fridays are the days that I do the most work in the office. My desk is always full of dockets of cases that I need to go through and make sure I have forwarded my report to my supervisor before I leave. Regrettably, I barely get to take part in the games because of the volume of work that I have to do. 

As a fresh graduate and married woman with no child, I felt the need to do more so it might push me on a pedestal for easy promotion. But this Friday was lively but with no life. There were many smiles but I frowned. I have tried to separate domestic problems from work but it has finally caught up with me.

 The heated argument I had with my husband still lingers in my veins. I still remember his foul words that cut through my self-esteem. My face couldn’t hide the worry for long from James.
 James is a good friend at work who always looks over my shoulder. He wears an intoxicating smile and has a charming aura that brings life to the office. He’s the people's man at work and he’s good with words. He said to me; I see your worry even though you don’t want anybody to hear the story, let’s talk about it over a cup of coffee.

I wasn't reluctant to talk with him about it. He was easy to talk with. At lunch, I was seated beside the window in the cafeteria mulling over what my husband said. Somehow he was right but a part of me was angered. I was buried in my thoughts. Then, I heard a voice so deep yet soothing. I looked away from the window at the most magnificent smile I'd ever seen. “There you are,” he said as he pulled the chair behind me to have his seat.
He called out to the waitress to serve us two cups. As he called I wondered how he could have impeccable teeth. Well-arranged even though not whitish a color but that which you are not ashamed to show off. 

“What's the problem?” James snapped his fingers at me. “Err errmm nothing” I stammered. I didn't know where or how to start. I vowed to never give in to the third party in my marital issue. From what I've gathered from others’ experiences, their woes began when they involved third parties in the process of arbitration. James snapped at me again. This time around I met him with a smile that lacked confidence. 

“You are not ready, dear. I won't push you. I'm always available, “ James said as he sipped his hot chocolate coffee.

“I love my husband,” I blurted out.  James’ eyebrows rose. “But I think he doesn’t understand me. He feels I don’t have time for him therefore he wants me to slow down with my work so that we can concentrate on our marriage and have children.” I continued. 

“All my life I’ve dreaded being on top of my career. I wanted to prove I can still be married and on top of my game. I thought he understood all these before marriage but …” 

“It turns out not,” James interrupted. “ I understand you perfectly well. It feels like he wants to put you in shackles by asking you to slow down and start making babies. That, dear, is going to weigh you down. And how receptive is he to the idea of having a nanny or a helping hand should babies start to come?” he asked.

I nodded not in affirmation. I wasn’t relieved because I felt I’d eschewed my pledge to not involve a third party, more so a male! I need to talk to my husband again. Perhaps he will rescind his idea of me slowing down my career to have babies besides we’ve been married for only two years. 

“Hellooo” James stretched “is somebody regretting talking to me?” 
I gave a faint smile. And gave no nod. But I  wondered how he could read even my inactions.
“Alright lover woman. Just think through what you told me, what your husband wants, and what you want”. With that, he stood, rolled up his sleeves a little above his wrists, and adjusted his buttons. He leaned a bit toward me. He smelled like white jasmine. He whispered “we can always talk over a cup of coffee but you aren’t getting a new one” he giggled and went away.

That's when I realized I haven’t touched my cup. I went home still worried. I couldn’t finish my work that Friday. I found myself questioning what I wanted and answering myself. I was sure of it. I wanted to be on top of my game and still have a wonderful marriage. Mine was a small family that I yearned for. Husband, wife, and two children.  But as to when I wanted the children, I wasn’t sure. James was right. Having children will weigh me down. I can’t climb the ladder to the top. What if I decide to leave my job and have babies only for Bal, to leave me for another self-sufficient woman?. That was what happened to Sumi. I can’t let that occur to me. I must get to the peak of my career. Bal must understand and exercise patience. 
I was convinced Bal would agree with me. He had always wanted what I want until now. What’s changing? Thoughts fogged me as I drove home.  Two things that survived their way throughout my thoughts were James’ smell and demeanor during the rest break.

Love, at first sight, is a phenomenon I still believe in because, from the day I set my eyes on Bal, I liked him. I was in my third year at the university when I met him at a community event. Everything about him enthralled me and I went to him to speak to him. Would you mind being friends? I asked shyly. He replied in the affirmative with humor that made me have butterflies in my stomach. Two months after my last paper in my final year, Bal and I were exchanging vows and felt wow on the altar. 

Our matrimonial apartment was small, but the home was big. Bal always had something entertaining to bring into the house. He’s good with jokes, stories, and games too. He doesn't come home empty even if he’s broken he will sure have something nice to say to make the home lively. I do believe I have arrived because having him by my side was all there is for me as a strength. I on the other hand was jokingly provocative. I do sometimes deliberately burn his pants just to see the look on his face. I love it when I see him acting like a child. I, at that moment,  hug and pamper him like the child I hope to eventually bear one day.

Our home had always been harmonious until Bal asked that I slow down with work to bore him, sons.
As a result, our once lively home became heated. I said to him he was envious of my progress hence he wanted to truncate it by asking me to prepare to give birth. 
I ran to James anytime Bal and I argued. He’d console me. He was a tender guy and appeared to know his way around me. It didn't take long before I took to his liking. I would dress up for work just to impress him. 

Soon we started meeting outside work. We would visit places we both adored. I walked with him carefreely. In my mind, I was done with Bal. I couldn't be with a man who was envious of my progress, or so I thought. I loved the smell of James’ perfume. I fancied burying my face in his chest anytime he sits close to me. 
I one day decided to pay him a visit to his apartment. I got there and as always, he gave me a lady-like treat. Comfortably, I took my shoes and blazer off to have a feel of fresh air. As I took the blazer off, James helped me. 

Suddenly his hands went around my neck. I became stiff. I leaned forward and buried my face in his chest. After a second, my face came off and we locked lips and soon we were under each other's heat. This continued for months till our colleagues at the workplace began suspecting us. The chief suspect was Bal.

What I felt about Bal was nothing compared to James. He was just good at his craft by all standards. It didn't take long for Bal to fish me out. He caught me red-handed the day when I decided to let James drop me home. I thought Bal would be in the room sleeping by then just as he always did. He had always wanted evidence to prove to my cheating self. That night was his day. He had it. He saw us from the window smooching. He filed for divorce the next morning. I was not bothered in the least. I had James. So when he threw the papers at me, I signed without a thought. 
I quickly picked up my phone to call James and announce to him how a free woman I had become. To my stern surprise, a woman answered. She identified herself as James’ wife. I lost my balance and fell onto the sofa behind me. My brain began to boil through to my stomach and finally my whole being. I shivered. 
Before I regained my senses, Bal had left the scene. He heard the other woman from the other side of the phone. I had put it on speaker out for him to hear how James and I were going to carry on with life without him being a subject of worry for us.

James never bothered to give me an explanation. He behaved as if I was not existing even at work. My performance dropped and I became shattered. I became a point of mockery at work.  But somehow, I decided not to leave because it's hard getting jobs out there.
I couldn't go back to beg Bal after the display of pride, gloat, and malice.

I was wallowing in my miseries one day in my office when a knock came through. “Come in,” I said unenthusiastically. It was the new Evaluation Officer, Quam, who had been with us for a few months. He was outgoing, had a luminous smile, and was discerning. He had been the only one who asked about my well-being ever since he got to know about my predicament through China rumors. We talked often about work-related issues. “Good morning,” he said.

I only nodded and looked away. He stood for a while, placed the documents he had on my table, and sat. After a brief silence, he said to me, “Whatever your worry is, let me know, and, we can talk about it over a cup of coffee”...

By Kandey Alhassan & Hamza Hajj Ayub


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