Friday afternoon in Tahil was bursting with activity. The restaurant was renowned for their Ghanaian dishes buffet. And it wasn’t just at Tahil. Somehow, restaurants and food bars across the nation have turned Friday into a Ghanaian dishes affair. Like the now dominant African print wear to work on Fridays. Whoever dreamed up the local dishes buffet must be proud. Fridays now has become entirely African, local. One of the local radio station show hosts had said it was the one thing besides football that brought Ghanaians together. That was an exaggeration of course. But one which isn’t too far from the truth.
The inside of the restaurant was packed – both the large eating area two floors up besides the ground floor and the outside. Freda Johnson hurried towards Kate who was just arriving with Dzidzor. Kate had on a colourful pink themed Vlisco dress with a bamboo framed glasses. Dzidzor was in her penciled office skirt, bottom gathered sleeveless top, a one-inch heel maybe and sheer makeup that made her face glow. Or maybe she was just glowing. She seemed to Freda to be bursting with happiness she hasn’t seen her with over the past year. She hurried to meet them and show them to their reserved seat. Dzidzor had called to make the reservation an hour ago. Freda was glad they arrived on time. She didn’t have to keep customers off the seat and risk Tahil being bad mouthed. Sales were going up each month. She wanted to keep it that way. And so customers must primarily be kept happy.
Freda waved at the two friends and pulled each into an impulsive hug. A little over five years older than them, Freda was full of life and love. Kate didn’t know her much until the last two years. Dzidzor cooed her into allowing Tahil cater for her wedding and afterwards, she was just in love with the restaurant and particularly Freda. She beamed at them and led them off to their table.
“Your orders?” Freda held up her pad ready to jot down whatever they wanted. Kate hesitated, looking lost. Dzidzor smiled.
“Water for now.”
Freda walked away, jotting down the order. She passed the pad to a dark stout girl in her late teens probably and fell into a hug with an elderly woman who has just got out of her car and was making her way through to the main entrance. Dzidzor recognized her. Her screeching laughter, wide smile and towering body was enough to know. Miss Yaba Anokye – Junior’s aunt and never married. She was wealthy, independent but never disrespectful of men. In fact most of her closest friends are males. Kate followed Dzidzor’s gaze and with disinterest looked away. Dzidzor bowed her head and whispered.
“I hope she doesn’t see me.”
“I doubt she will. Rather, hope Freda doesn’t point you out.”
Two glasses of water arrived and the dark girl asked them to tap on a button on the table should they want anything and someone will attend them. She walked away smiling. Kate nodded, peeling off her sunglasses. She would have told the waitress how pretty her black is and how she’d have made a die for model if she was just few inches taller but she didn’t. Her puffy red eyes said everything there was. Dzidzor looked up from the glass of water she was sipping and stared at Kate. Her own face took on a horrid look, her mouth dropping in disbelief. Kate has been crying? She’s been with her for an hour. She picked her up from her home on her way from a client’s and had a light chit chat on their way here. She’s not seen a tear drop from her eyes. Not one single tiny teardrop.
“Kate.” Dzidzor sucked in her lips, her face intent on Kate’s. Kate managed a half smile and swept her hand under her eyes. Her eye circles looked dark and saggy.
“Hey.” Dzidzor reached for her hands and squeezed them lightly. “You aren’t fine.” She said, not taking her eyes away from her friend’s. She feels she’s known Kate all her life every one of the eight years they’ve shared together. But now was different.
“I’m not.” Kate said, her eyes holding pain she never thought possible for one human to feel.
“What’s wrong?” Dzidzor asked, her hands still firmly on hers. What’s killing her friend? She’s the strongest of them. She’s the one who brings her joy. Just last week, they were seated at this same restaurant, laughing and teasing and being the world’s best best friends. Then today here’s Kate definitely breaking inside.
“Dad…” Kate barely got the words out when two giant tears escaped her eyes and dropped unto the table. She didn’t stop. She gasped faintly. “Dad’s been diagnosed with a heart condition…” She paused as though she was catching her breath from a heated hundred metre race. One of those she loved volunteering for during her senior high. Dzidzor nodded, urging her to continue. Sefa being diagnosed alone won’t make Kate look this distraught. There should be more. There’s bound to be more. The only other time she’s seen her friend like this is during her fifth year in school, on Korlebu campus. Her dad had confessed to her she wasn’t adopted after all. She was his own daughter, only her mother died months after her birth. The news and that her mum was actually dead had hit her so bad. Kate seemed to hesitate and then without warning, she moved her hands to her mouth and tears were streaming down her cheeks. Her already light skin was taking on some redness along her nose and on her cheeks. Dzidzor moved to the adjacent seat, pulled it closer to Kate and held her. She silently thanked God they had a seat at the far end of both the parking space and the main entrance. She held onto her praying, her heart becoming heavy from seeing Kate mourn the way she did.
Kate let loose from Dzidzor’s grip and smiled. Her eyes were almost lost from her face, her liner was smudged. Dzidzor was glad it wasn’t smeared and didn’t call for any bathroom attention. Dzidzor smiled unsure of what to do or say next. Kate is the one who knew the route along such moments, never her.
“He’s been given maximum of five years to live. His condition is such that he could drop dead any day.” Kate dabbed under her eyes, no threat of tears in sight. She continued. “He told me on Saturday. He just dropped in. Didn’t call. Nothing. He told me and for the first time Dzidzor I realize if Dad goes, I’ll have only Kwaku. I don’t…” Kate choked. The heaviness of the moment settled on Dzidzor’s heart. Kate sighed. “He’s really the only family. You know my grandparents died in that accident last year. His uncles and Aunties…I don’t even know them. I am going to be alone.” A desperate tear fell along her right cheek. She brushed it away, willing herself to be strong.
“Does Kwaku know?”
Dzidzor asked the only other question to ask before saying every word that has been forming in her heart as she watched her friend.
“He does.” Kate’s face fell. “He cried with me, stayed a day off work with me. But he has to return. You know these things don’t get you off work responsibility for long if they do at all.” Kate managed a smile but an angry look took over her face.
Dzidzor moved to her seat. She wants Kate’s eyes locked with hers so every single word she’ll say will register in her friend’s heart and soul.
She smiled when she had Kate’s eyes on her.
“I am sorry honey. You know I am. Your dad is my dad too…” Dzidzor choked some on her own tears waiting to fall. “He’s my only godfather.” She took Kate’s hands. “But Kate you’ll never be alone when he goes. You’ll have me. You’ll have mummy. You’ll have daddy. We’ll cry with you Kate. And we won’t leave. We’re your family too.”
Dzidzor finished smiling as the tears raced down the sides of her face. She saw Kate’s face warming up amidst more tears too. Her phone beeped twice and she looked on the screen to see a text from Sule. She smiled and moved over to Kate’s side once more, pulling her into a hug.
She has been bursting with news all week she couldn’t wait for today to tell Kate – about how she ended up at Sule’s uncle’s after the gym, how they got along fine at the party, how they exchanged contacts and have been texting a few times, how Sule was a really intelligent guy with a robust faith, how she will start perhaps taking her own faith seriously to Kate’s delight, how she didn’t think Tara liked her but she was excited to allow herself have a new friend and on and on. But she didn’t get to say any of those. She didn’t even get to tell her about a possible lunch with Sule. And about how for the first real time, out of her own family at the party, her heart ached for a family of her own. Her own husband, her own kids.
She wasn’t eager to talk about those things now anyway. They can wait. Now her friend needed her and that’s all that matters. A hug doesn’t even come close to a good payment for Kate in her life anyway. The two stayed in the hug for what seemed an eternity to Dzidzor. She eased herself out and grinned, her lips almost lopsided. She held onto Kate’s hands, her eyes whole on her anxious face. The sun was dimming with the sky overhead shedding off some of its yellowish look.
“Kate.” Dzidzor tapped on her lips, intending to mirror her playful friend as much as she could during their first chat at her parent’s after Kate’s second honeymoon. Kate giggled. Her face was soaking in the tears and leaving almost invisible tear lines on her cheeks. “I have just the brilliant of ideas. Give the old man a grandchild soon enough.” Dzidzor squinted her eyes. “I mean soon.” She said and they both fell into a choking laughter. There can’t be anything better than their friendship. They were both sure of this.
Except of course a lifetime with God and a love shared with a man whose heart is truly theirs.
Author’s note: This perhaps is one of the most emotional chapters I typed by far for #whenlovefindsyou. I paused to pray for those facing helpless situations like Kate’s. If you’re one such person, you can drop a prayer request in the comment. I’ll be praying with you. If you’re in one or have gone through one, take a moment if you can to share with us how you survived.
©M’afua Awo Twumwaah 2016