Ivy tried in vain not to look at the wall clock above the 21-inch screen TV for the fifth time in 10 minutes. 10:55pm? Where the hell was he? He had said he would be home by 7pm. She had made sure she was in the house by 5:30pm.
Justina and Sofie could not forgive her for not going to Javas with them after work. Monday night was their girls’ night out at Javas every week.
They had been doing this since they became roommates in Mary Stuart in Makerere University in first year. That was six years ago.
Justina had accused Ivy of neglecting them lately. Ivy had turned down several outings with her friends. At the last minute, she had failed to go with them to Mbarara for their friend Josephine’s traditional wedding ceremony.
For all the fun Sofie insisted they had had, her two best friends had still not forgiven her for failing to attend.
Today she had missed their girls’ night out so she that could get home early and prepare Avery’s favourite dish: mushrooms in groundnut paste, well boiled cow hooves, and steaming hot millet bread.
She had not told him about the meal. She had wanted him to get home and find it laid out on the table in celebration.
At about 10am that morning Avery had called. “Weed, I got it,” he said. Weed was his nickname for her, “Because I can’t get enough of you.”
“I finally got us the contract to supply the solar lights. Not just for Kampala. We are doing the whole country! I shouldn’t be saying this over the phone, but I couldn’t wait to tell you.”
She was dozing off when his car headlights lit up the sitting room briefly as he reversed to park. She undid the latch and turned the key for him to let himself in. In the kitchen, she turned on the oven. She would not face him.
He sighed deeply. He sighed again before he muttered, “I’m sorry.” He tried to reach around her waist to pull her to him. She snapped, “Eat your food!” as she dodged round him back to the sitting room carrying a jug of juice.
He slumped into his seat at the four-seater dining table, “Don’t you want to know how I finally got those government guys to sign?”
She picked up the bag of groceries he had dropped by the door. “Why don’t you tell your friends since I had nothing to do with it? You only listen to your friends.”
Ivy looked over her shoulder at Avery as she walked into their bedroom. He was already engrossed in his phone, the food getting cold. She slammed the door behind her.
On Friday, in between meetings, rushing around before the weekend, his message came through. She wanted to fling her phone through the window.
She read the message and promptly deleted it, but the words remained in her mind. In eight words, he had ruined her weekend and ended their relationship. “Headed to Sironko. Urgent. Back Monday. No network.”
Before going into the second quarter budget meeting that she was chairing, she texted him. “Don’t come back.”
During their university days, Ivy, Justina and Sofia had created an SOS alert they all had to respond to. They did not use it often, but when they did the other two dropped everything and came over. A one-word SMS calling for help: “Broken.” This was only her second time to use it.
Teach her a lesson
The first time was in university. Justina and Sofia had to negotiate with the police to get her out of Jinja Road Police Station.
Her face was puffy, the left corner of her lip bleeding and she was almost naked. She was cowering in the corner of the dirty, tiny room she had been locked up in.
The police were angry and wanted to lock her up for at least one week, “to teach her a lesson.” Ivy had smashed the windscreen of her boyfriend Martin’s car, and he had called the police.
The police found Martin struggling to keep Ivy from attacking the girl he had been on an afternoon lunch with.
Martin kept muttering, “I don’t know what is wrong with her.”
When Martin’s new girlfriend appeared at the police station, Ivy attacked her too. Panting and screaming, she scratched and kicked at whoever was in reach until one fed up officer restrained her.
Ivy had to apologise to the police and pay them off. When she learned that it was either jail and her parents learning about what happened, or apologising to Martin and paying for the windscreen, she went to see Martin.
Today, all she wanted, after her last 3pm meeting, was a shot of whisky and some Avery-bashing. But Justina and Sofie said that Ivy owed them a road trip, and they were going out of town for the weekend.
They were taking her to Kyaninga Lodge in Fort Portal, their treat. They giggled when Ivy asked, “Do I also get a man on this treat? I hear good things about the Batooro.”
She barely had a moment to sink into the luxury of her bed in Kyaninga when she was almost shocked clear out of her skin by a voice she recognised.
“Hullo, Weed?” Avery greeted her, emerging from the bathroom.
She was so startled, she could only ask, “What are you doing here?”
“It’s a good thing that you should ask,” Avery said with a little nervous laugh and then a sight she never thought she would see unfolded before her. He dropped to one knee before her, “Will you marry me?”
She had so many questions but only one answer. “Yes!”