Sheila Blackwell loved him. It was the way he made her feel inside when they were together. She liked the way his eyes gleamed in the sunlight or the way he held her hand as they walked to their favourite place on earth — a pond near her house.
She loved it when he ran his fingers through her hair as they gazed at the stars and the distant moon. She did not care much that he did not like to talk about their future together but she figured it would all come to pass.
“Let’s not rush in,” he would say, “Tomorrow is not promised to anyone so let’s live for the now.”
They would make love. They always did even after he refused to dream with her. He was sure-footed and he made her feel secure, wanted and loved.
She thought he was cute when they first met outside the principal’s office two weeks into the school year.
“Hi, you must be the new teacher,” she had said to him.
“Yes, I am. How did you know?”
“I’ve never seen you before.”
“And for that you assumed that I was the one?”
She liked the way he said “the one” — confident and poised. He was youthful and charismatic. Almost a boyish charm.
He was kind to everyone he met, from the janitors to the cooks and other staff members. He knew them by name and always stopped to ask how they were doing.
“Daudi, how is your son Amos?” He would ask the school groundsman. “Is he still taking his medicine? Tell him I say hello and that I hope to see him up on his feet soon.”
Or to loud-mouth Janet, the school nurse who everyone hated for discussing private issues publicly, he would ask, “How was your trip to see your mother? Is she still making those tasty samosas? Tell her I am still waiting for my dinner invitation.”
He genuinely touched everyone he met with his positive outlook on life, even in the gloomiest moment of anyone’s day. She liked that about him. Who wouldn’t?
He smiled often, an infectious smile that was quickly followed by laughter.
Sheila enjoyed what she called “his vision of the world.” A world of endless possibilities. He encouraged his students to dream big, to re-imagine and re-invent their lives and to never ever be victims of their circumstances.
She overheard him telling a group of students that it was better to have tried and failed than to have never tried at all. He told personal tales of triumph and failure, pain and joy, happiness and sorrow. He was a teacher but his stories, which he shared with anyone who would listen, made him much more than that, they made him one of “us.”
“Did you always want to be a teacher?” Sheila asked him one day.
He smiled at her and she felt her heart skip a beat.
“Yes.” He did not even hesitate. “I knew that I wanted to become a teacher, just like Mrs Owuor, my English teacher when I was a young boy.”
They talked for a while after school that day and many days after that. He captivated her with his travels — the distant places he had been and the books he had read. She lost herself in his world so much so that when one day, after all the students had left, he reached over and kissed her and she found herself opening up to him.
That was how it started.
Ever since that day, Sheila started reading books that he had read, she started talking like he did, flaring her arms this way and that way. She even started wearing her hair down, just like he liked it.
He then asked her to guard their secret carefully, telling her that if anyone found out they would both be suspended and so she kept mostly to herself, it was safer that way.
During her lunch hour, she took walks along the corridors of the school hoping to run into him, to see him, to be around him and when their eyes met, they both smiled knowingly. They looked forward to their evening trysts, and as time went on, Saturday mornings alone.
She was not the only one changing. He had started coming home late to a wife and a daughter who adored him, blaming longer school days for his tardiness. He said the new job was demanding, that the administration was asking too much of him and that was why he was too tired to make love to her.
He started skipping on their date nights, their monthly trips to see in-laws saying that he had to be in school for a meeting or for collaborative lesson-planning. He promised to make it up to her but days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months.
And then it happened.
His wife followed him to school one Saturday morning, suspecting that he was doing more that planning lessons. She found him in the classroom on top of Sheila.
“Oh my God!” she exclaimed.
“It is not what you think, honey,” He said as he pulled up his pants and ran after her, leaving Sheila on the floor.
Sheila heard him pleading for clemency and all her mercies but his wife had had enough. The only thing she said to him was that she wanted a divorce and she ran off and disappeared in the distance.
He walked back to Sheila with his head bowed, his eyes moistening. She was now straightening out her blouse and after she was done she pulled up her tight blue jeans then put on her sneakers.
“I am so sorry about this, Sheila,” he started, his voice breaking. “I meant to tell you sooner but I never found the right time. But it’s ok now, I am going to get a divorce and now we can be together.”
She looked at him and started walking out.
“Please, Sheila. I have no one but you. Don’t you see? You are now my only one. She is gone and without you I have nothing.”
He looked old and dejected, the shell of the man she thought she loved. She noticed his receding hairline, his smoke-stained teeth and his big callous hands that had massaged her tender breasts.
“I cannot be with you anymore,” she whispered to him.
He was astounded.
“But why? Haven’t I been nice to you? What do you want me to do? I’ll do whatever you want.”
She looked at him again. She noticed his bulging mid-section that had laid on her as he grunted with pleasure, his hairy chest rubbing against her chin. She felt used and dirty. She felt bad for his wife and what she had done to her and for lying to her parents about evening and weekend tutoring. But most of all, she felt lost and deceived.
“Sheila,” he continued pleading, “Don’t you want to be with me? Don’t you love me?”
She stopped at the door and looked at him, one last time.
“Mr Juma, I am only 16 years old.”
She walked out.