Life Without Parole, Series

Life Without Parole #5

By Iteti:

My story isn't so intriguing, really. I wonder where to start telling it.

Anyway, the year was 1984; I was in my second year at the university. Maybe I should've started with a little family background. My parents and grandparents all lived in Britain during the political unrest in Uganda, so I was born and raised there, then brought back to Uganda to study because my parents wanted me to be mindful of my roots. During those days everyone I knew that lived in Uganda was hardened to an extent; they were tough because of what they had gone though and well, I just wasn't. I was a daddy's little girl, used to getting her own way and suffered from asthma.

I had everything handed to me when I moved back to East Africa. I was the rich girl on campus; all the girls wanted to be me and all the boys wanted to be with me. I could see every girl torn up with envy every time I spoke – my British accent was to die for. Of course, it wore off over the years, but I know there's still a hint of it because people, to this day, ask me where I grew up because I don't sound too Ugandan. You know, with that local accent and all.

Pretty, smart and rich, I ruled my days at the university. I dated a few times but got bored with each one of them until I met Beau. He was 3 years ahead of me, finishing up his fourth year on campus when we met. Beau had a certain je ne sais quoi about him that intrigued me. He was funny, terribly handsome, everybody loved him and not to mention the fact that he was from a rich, rich family. He too had been abroad a few times. In him I saw the perfect companion for me. I liked him instantly and without wasting a breath, I took to finding out all I could about him.

Beau, it turned out, had a girlfriend whose background left a lot to be desired. I hope you can see how important a person's background is to me; it says a lot about who they are. Anyway, this girlfriend (Libby is her name) of his, was a true daughter of the soil. Apparently, she grew up fending for her enormous family while her dad was away fighting for Uganda. She went to schools deep down in the village and it was only for her A 'level after her father had returned from exile, that she came to a school in the city and managed to join one of the most prestigious universities in Africa at the time. Pooh! I disliked her. I wanted her boyfriend.

I also learnt that Beau had taken to the bottle quite a bit and loved to go to the disco, so every time I knew I was going to see him, I dressed up real nice and made sure he saw the important bits of me. I knew he found me attractive, but I also knew that his girlfriend was also groovy looking. I was not leaving anything to chance. After several failed attempts at trying to get him into deep conversation with me – where I had hoped he would realise that I am the right woman for him – I decided I would lay in wait. Patience always pays they say.

One warm Friday evening, when Libby had taken ill, I found Beau at the disco with a bunch of his friends. Final exams were over so everyone was in a celebratory mood. I walked over to him and congratulated him – he was now officially an engineer. Of course I wanted him even more now. We danced a couple of times and as the night wore on, he drank more and got more intoxicated. We cosy-ed up to each other on the dance floor that night until it closed. To cut a long story short, a month later, I found out I was with child – Beau's child.

Of course by this time, rumours were spreading around campus about Beau's misdemeanours and he and Libby were going through a rough patch in their relationship. When I told Beau about the little one growing inside me, he looked like he'd just seen a ghost. I was hurt that he'd find it so dreadful to father a child with me. Granted, he was in love with someone else. I knew that our culture wouldn't let him off the hook that easy and knowing who my parents were and their influence in our country, he had to do the right thing and marry me. He did.

We were wed a few months later. After the wedding, our families put us up in a nice little apartment close to the university so that I could finish school. A few years after our first baby was born, I graduated with honours and got a job at a bank. Beau and I somehow managed to make life work. I could tell he was finding it difficult to adjust to married life at first, but he did eventually. After the baby was born I had never seen him happier. He dotted over our little one and me that as soon as I could, I gave birth to another just to make him happy, and he was for a time.

As the children grew, he became more distant, took to drinking again and staying out late. I knew about the other women too, a woman always knows. He'd come home at night and look at me with disgust. I wasn't what/who he'd wanted. He called me a liar and a trickster. I thank God he never laid a hand on me though. I did all I could to try to get him to love me more, but it all seemed fruitless. He wasn't happy and all our friends could tell. Libby's name came up in a lot of their conversations and when she finally got married was when the drinking started.

Fifteen years after we got married I found out that Beau had HIV. He had kept it a secret until he fell badly and I had to nurse him at the hospital. I found out I had it too. We fought and he asked for a divorce, but I refused. There was no way I was going to be the woman who had failed to make her marriage work! So we stayed together, we suffered together; and sometimes, in a good season, we would laugh together. Beau finally stopped fighting “us” and when he did, life got a lot better.

We have a house, two fully grown children, a business and good jobs. We're settled now. Looking back, I know I made some dumb choices, but the decision to stay together for our children is not one I will ever regret. Beau and I are friends. I don't know if he has ever loved me the way a man loves a woman, but I know he has a form of love towards me. I am grateful for whatever he can give me. Older and wiser now, I regret that my pride got in the way of our happiness.

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