The musings of Elle
Rock bottom. That is how this felt.
I had worked it out that Jamie was the kind of comfortable friend I could not easily get tired of. And yes, somewhere down the line, I started thinking that if I was to get married like many of my friends out there, then he would be a suitable companion. So suitable that I literally talked myself into accepting him as a husband. Yes, the heavy h word. My thoughts were so well defined that I had myself convinced that I was or could be in love with Jamie. Once that thought process was set, I wanted it to be true. You know when you want something so bad that you become restless. Which is a dangerous place to be when it comes to matters of the heart. Which is why that stupid phone call happened. Which is why I had to leave, to take a step back before I did something really silly out of desperation. I had looked away from the cool, peaceful face of Jesus and lost my place of rest. I did not trust God that anything, anyone could be better than Jamie.
That was the thing that brought us together. And it is the same thing that was going to separate us. I was going to make sure of it. Thank God that for five years I had taken the unconventional route to making a living. It had taken the whole of five years to figure things out. Five years of false starts, trials and experimentation but the time had paid off. Eventually. I was now a self-made woman. That always made me smile. It also meant I could do as I please because I had created a niche for myself that I could live on.
Starting out, I had had a hundred different ideas passing through my head a mile per second. And it had taken more than just passion and energy to make things work. Just when I needed help the most, people miraculously appeared to be the help I needed. They provided lots of common sense, technical expertise, local know-how and emotional support that I sometimes desperately needed.
James was my go-to guy. He was in a rut like me but of a different kind. He always knew what he wanted to do. He just needed to get there. For me, I knew what I felt I could be but I didn’t know how to get there. So it was fun meeting together in brightly lit malls, and dusky, out-of-town verdant places to bounce ideas off each other. He was good for me. I was good for him. And we both loved the outdoors and a hint of the wild and unusual. He understood that weirdness in me that comes out when I am really me. We are all weird in our different ways but he understood my brand of weirdness. And I also understood that every now and then, he really needed his space. Because I needed mine too. People do not understand that space is good. Very good, actually. Who wants to be needy and dependent all the time? Like all the time? No, thank you. What doesn’t work is when the space you need does not coincide with the space the other person needs. Now that can cause problems because then the other person who doesn’t need that much space thinks you are holding out and the other person who isn’t done with “me time” thinks you are too needy. But James and I are like kindred spirits. Just when I need a break, he needs a break. Just when he is reaching out after taking some space, I am thinking that hey, I wonder how James is doing. Perfect synchronization. That is tautology. I know it, but it has to be said. Beautiful. Until now, that is.
I’ve often found out that the thing that brings people together, that spark, that thing, is the same thing that can give them the most grief. I always knew he was not looking for anything beyond friendship. And he knew I was too busy sorting myself out to care for anything beyond friendship. So there you have it. Two people, in space, in time, perfectly aligned. Well, almost.
I sigh and look over the itinerary. All it takes is a click and my adventure is set. I try not to think about James as the printer whirrs away, confirming everything in black and white. It is time to fly again. We always used to laugh at my itchy legs, aching for adventure, for the next destination. I told him it came on strong every now and then but I was trying to be responsible enough to settle and build. So for five years, I always ignored it. But not anymore. It is also said that what brought you here won’t take you there. James was good enough for five years. But not for the next five years. That was clear. My intuition always buzzed me on this. I was not his woman. I was his person, but not his woman, not his Beyoncé. I was all right but you know guys, he’ll want a version of me all right, but a glam version. I’m too down to earth, too girl next-door, too unraveled. There was no mystery left when it came to me. And for him, I guess that is the real adventure: finding that mysterious vixen that could only come from another planet.
His brother’s kids were driving him crazy again. James finally grabbed his wallet and walked out of the house. He thought he heard someone scream his name when he got to the gate but he ignored it and walked on. It was late but he needed to get out and think. There was nothing wrong with him. He loved kids. He did not have commitment issues or mummy issues. Even though things were now just taking off at his company, he had enough financial reserves to call himself an independent man. What he didn’t need was his friend coming at him with a question that did not deserve an answer. They were friends and that was it.
Why did love have to come in and complicate things? Yes, there was a time he could not sleep because she was all over in his thoughts. But at that time, he had firmly decided he was not going to get involved in anyone. He had a plan and that plan had deadlines that he intended to meet. So Ellie, he could never call her Elle, except when he wanted her attention, was the perfect complement. A woman who asked for nothing and wanted nothing. She was like a rare gem, so rare that he now compared every woman he met with her. No one had met up to her so far. They were either too dumb and gorgeous, or smart but not gorgeous enough. Ellie was the perfect combination of smart and good looks. But every guy could live with a bit of “dumbness” in a girl. Ellie had said that. She had also said that it was impossible for a smart woman to live with a dumb guy. And she was right. Ellie was usually right. That was why he could forgive himself for thinking about Alice. Come on, not everyone could be as smart as Ellie. Compromises had to be made. He had thought Ellie understood that.
Ellie didn’t know about Alice. It was the one thing he was keeping from her. James couldn’t decide if it was because he was feeling guilty but he certainly felt he needed to take a bit of precaution where it concerned Alice. James grimaced. Who was he kidding? He knew why. He knew that Ellie wouldn’t approve of Alice. She would try not to laugh because she was very good at respecting his feelings (that’s why they had got this far) but he would know that she did not “approve” because she wouldn’t lie to him (another thing that had got them this far). So he had kept his mouth shut. And good thing he had because who would have thought that he would receive a call at 2 am in the morning?
Some guy in the neighbourhood waved to him. James waved back. He was almost near the lake. Their lake. He stopped in his tracks and tried to think of an alternative route. The lake held too many memories of Ellie. He liked Ellie. He might even love her, too. But he wanted to be sure. Ah, whatever. He walked on to the lake. He came here alone when he needed space. He also came here with Ellie when she was in the neighbourhood. As he stood on by the edge of the water he realized that he did not want to be here. He wanted to talk to someone. He fished out his phone. Actually, he wanted to talk to Ellie. He took a deep breath and dialed, wondering what he was going to say. It rang out. No one answered.
“Ellie, what are you up to?” he asked aloud. He sighed and walked back home. James hoped his baby cousins were in bed by the time he got back.
“James?” Ella was surprised. James never called her. If there was one thing she would give him an award for, this was it. James was the one person who did not assume that because Ella was Elle’s twin, he had to somehow involve her in his friendship with her sister. Nope. James seemed to forget that Elle had a sister, a twin sister for that matter. And it was all right with Ella. It was nice to be treated differently and separately from your sister. James understood that. That is why in spite of them not talking to each other except on rare occasion, she actually liked James.
“Hey, Ella. It’s me.”
“Yes, I can tell. What’s up?” Ella was still waiting to be un-surprised because James was breaking all the rules.
“Is Ellie there with you?”
Ella did a double take and in a second, she had it all figured out. “Aaaah! What did you do?”
“What do you mean what did I do?”
“Come on, James. I know you and I know my sister. You are thick as thieves. And since you are calling me, well, you do the math.”
“Okay, I might have done something. But I really need to talk to her, Ella. She’s not answering my calls.”
“Has it occurred to you that it’s probably because she doesn’t want to talk to you?”
“I know that. This is me trying to reach out, to make things right.”
“Well, good luck with that, lover boy. Elle’s not here. She left yesterday.”
“Left to where?” James almost panicked.
“Go figure.” Ella was not about to tell him where Elle had gone to. Her sister must’ve kept it from him for good reason. And for all their differences, you wouldn’t find more loyal sisters than the two of them.
“Come on Ella. Please.”
“No, James. Too bad, but then, I’m sure you had it coming.”
“Cut me some slack. How do you know I’m to blame?”
“Elle is as sensible as they come. I should know. You are to blame, James. Tell me I’m wrong.”
James sighed. He knew it was going to be tough but he had had to try. But this was worse than he had thought. Ellie had gone somewhere. “At least, tell me if she’s still in the country.”
Ella laughed. “You’ll be lucky if she’s on the continent James. I’ve got to go. I’m sure my sister knows how to find you, unless you also plan on disappearing?”
“This isn’t funny.”
“It is, to me. Ciao James.”
She hung up, leaving James wondering about what to do.
“I told you, you are addicted to her,” James’ friend, Patrick, was like a dog with a bone. “What’s the deal anyway? I thought you had this- what do you call it- kindred spirit thing going? So why the fuss?”
James shook his head. “I need to talk to her. She has never gone off without letting me know.”
“Are you sure?” Patrick’s eyebrows were raised. “Remember the Lagos trip? And the Kumasi escapade? What were those?”
“Those were different. Plus that was West Africa. This is not. For all I know she could be in Australia.”
“Ah, I get it. That was you two being ‘real’ and ‘independent’.” Patrick laughed.
“We give ourselves space, Patrick. Why doesn’t anyone understand that?”
“Because it is weird. Two of you are weird. Normal people don’t do that. They get in your face and love you hard.”
“How did love get in here?”
Patrick thought James sounded defensive, too defensive. “What are you not telling?” When his friend said nothing, Patrick just shook his head. “I don’t know what’s up with you two. Never did, never will. But she always comes back. So don’t sweat it.”
She was not coming back. James knew it. And he was angry. Angry at Ellie for pulling a disappearing act. Angry at himself for not having things in control, angry at Patrick for making light of it, angry at everything. And he didn’t know whom to call. They had always kept their relationship, no, friendship, private. He knew his mother wondered at this woman he brought around now and then but then he always made it clear that they were just friends and warned his mother to leave her out of any drama. That was one major condition he had given for agreeing to still live at his parents’. His mother knew he could rent a nice place at a snap of his fingers if he wanted to. But like many mothers, she wanted to have him around to spoil him (Ellie’s words) and save him some money. After all, why pay good money for a fancy place when there were empty rooms in his father’s house and free food, too? Those were his mother’s words and somehow, he had agreed to her perspective of things.
Now, Ellie was gone. He tried not to care but he was no more that person. Perhaps three years ago it would have been possible. But not now. Not now. He cared. He was vested in her wellbeing. He understood her ups and downs. He knew her moods and knew how her mind worked. Even though they were both adventurous, none of them were impulsive. This, taking off like this, was impulsive. He tried to think of the last thing she had said. Something about seeing you later, friend. It was the way she had said the word “friend” that made him cringe.
Patrick was looking at him. “What are you going to do?”
James frowned. What was he meant to do?