One night, Ailis showed up at my place, as usual.
I took it for granted that we were continuing our relationship, certain things being glaringly obvious (we liked each other a lot and had missed each other tons during the one day absence and I have the texts to prove it!). So I played the host and offered her supper as a lead up to another expected big talk.
But she declined supper in a dismissive monosyllabic curt fashion. Thus did I cop my first feel of cognitive dissonance for a while.
Ailis said she simply wanted to talk and go. I encouraged her. The speech that followed was a lot to take in.
First, she said she knew what I had done at that party, and she wasn't asking for an explanation, she just knew, and I wasn't supposed to ask how she knew. For a while we were stuck at this stage as I tried to discover what she thought she knew, and meanwhile, she insisted I knew she knew what she meant me to know she knew and I was only pretending to know nothing just for the sake of argument.
We agreed to suspend that particular line of discussion.
Then she said that QezH had been cheating on Angela with no other than Angela's BFF GalPal. I had known this for a while, and I was wondering why this had anything to do with us, unless we had already returned to normal gossip routines. Angela's boyfriend was also Angela's BFF's lover, and I felt guilty that I knew this and Angela didn't, but I didn't know where Ailis was going with this.
She came to the point. “I warned you about GalPal, and then you go and make out with her at that party, kwanza tena on a couch – don't lie, everyone saw you!”
I was asleep, I claimed, honestly and vehemently. The accusations came to me as a shock.
Ailis didn't want to hear any of it. “GalPal behaves like that all the time. She's... Kwani you think you're the first one she's played around with? Ha!” She was pouring scorn, either at me or at GalPal, or at both of us, I wasn't sure.
I told her there was nothing there, and that her information was incorrect. At the party, GalPal and I had simply fallen asleep on the same couch. I had already learnt at gut level that GalPal’s intentions were, um, sorta shady. And I preferred Ailis any time, I told Ailis.
Earlier, I'd thought that by reading GalPal's attractive face, I could read her heart. In the animal kingdom, certain deep-water fish, for their next meal, depend on their prey being thus deluded. They light their bodies up in arrays of bright colors and just suspend themselves quietly in midwater, shining in the dark, their rows and rows of jagged teeth obscured in darkness, eager mouths hanging open, whole bodies poised to lash forth and summarily swallow the foolish fish that thinks neon lights have come to the ocean floor at last and a big launch was at hand, so come one come all. I wasn't one of those foolish fish.
So I said, “Trust me.” Which is the one thing people who tend to be trusted never say.
Ailis became stern, nay, fierce. “I won't have it! I warned you! I won't stick around and agree to become your Plan B, you hear? How dare you make me compete with GalPal, of all people! What do you take me for!?”
And she walked away with no ear for my protestations.