“Behind all the jokes and laughter, I noticed Ken is sad. Is everything all right with him?” Katherine asked him as they stepped out of the elevator.

His eyes lingered, bewildered. “Kathy, do you have the ability to see into the lives of people?”

“If I’m certain, I wouldn’t be asking.” They headed out to their own parking space.

“You’re not wrong, darling.” They halted beside the KIA Picanto SIC had given her for personal use. “Since Kenny asked us to lunch tomorrow, you can ask him.”

She nodded and he opened the driver side. “Do rest, it was a busy week for you since you did most of my job while I was cruising about with Kenny.” He smiled warmly at her. ‘We will come for you by 12 noon.”

She slid in. “I’ll do just that.”

He closed the door and headed to his car when she drove out.

*-*

Katherine stared at Kenneth with lips etched with a bemused smile as he took his second

scoop of African salad delicacy; oil bean made complete with dash of black pepper, slices of garden eggs, utazi , garden egg leaves, stock fish, cow skin and croaker fish.

“Hmmm.” Ken muttered mouthful. “I’m in love with the delicacy.”

She poured from the carafe of chilled malt into her tumbler and sipped with her eyes now trained on Kelvin munching a piece of stock fish in enviable delight.

“I told you you’ll love it.” Kelvin declared to his friend.

Katherine picked a fork and dip into the calabash, thrilled. Their flanking her had made heads turn on entry into the restaurant that looked something out of a village setting with its thatched roof and mud wall. It was indeed an embodiment of surprise.

She felt like she was in trance as she glanced at the duo enjoying her favourite meal.

Kelvin had driven them there, one of the best restaurant in term of local dishes and had placed the order.

She was chewing a piece of fish when she her gaze met with his and winked at her, it was with great effort that she didn’t choke as she chuckled.

They ate their meal with occasional interruption as Ken asked Katherine few questions about the meal.

Minutes later,

“Ken, in spite of your cheerfulness these few days I’ve known you, I observed a hidden sadness.”

Stunned, Kenneth shot Kelvin a knowing look.

Kelvin raise both palms. “I didn’t discuss you.”

He looked again at Katherine, heaved and then he closed his eyes briefly.

“If you don’t want to share, Ken, I’d understand.”

He shook his head. “I’ve been through experiences that I wouldn’t want people to experience.” He paused and stared into space.

Keen, Kelvin sat back and watched his friend.

“Three times I loved with all I am and all I’ve in total abandon and yet it was flung back at me that same number of time. I was broken hearted and mercilessly torn apart.”

She could feel the pain in his voice and see a reflection of herself not really in his version.

She touched him on the shoulder. “Tell me about it.”

“The first girl and I had a smooth relationship as I had believed, I even met her friends and her family until a class mate of Kelvin and I back in high school who is presently a gynaecologist  called me to congratulate me since I had decided to have a baby before getting married. Frozen with shock, my phone slipped off my hand. This pal of ours knew her well, knew us well, he couldn’t have been mistaken.

She had told me we won’t have sex until marriage and I respected that. We attended same church and shared beliefs. I had even bought the engagement ring.” Kelvin exhaled. “The next day towards noon, I went to see him, the doctor told me she was three months gone and had coming early in the day and had told another doctor that she wanted to undergo Dilation and Curettage because she wasn’t sure who the father was.”

Her brows rose and she blinked severally.

“I was devastated and after weeks of avoiding her, I saw her and quit the relationship. Kelvin was in California then and was instrumental to my recovery.” He glanced at Kelvin an encouraging nod.

“The second relationship…” His voice trailed and Kelvin touched his palm.

“Oh God…” He sighed. “I loved her dearly and she returned my love. I forget I’d ever been heart broken. A week after our engagement party, she travelled to see her parents and got involved in a fatal accident that claimed her life.” He took in quick breaths.

Katherine placed her palm on his and Kelvin hold on his palm tightened.

He blinked. “Words from the English dictionary cannot begin to qualify how I felt, I was rushed to the emergency unit a couple of times. Only the Almighty knew how I pulled through.”

Kelvin chose that moment to look at Katherine and he saw that her eyes were glassy with unshed tears and had to look away so he didn’t reach out to hold her hand.

“I understand, Ken.” She gave a faint smile and swallowed.

“Many years later, the third girl and I met soon after she was crowned Miss USA. She was also an influential actress. Our friendship bloomed into a relationship. We even got engaged and then I discovered that just as she did in movies and soaps, she had been acting her love for me. I caught her making out with one of her guards.”

Katherine exhaled.

“What she told me that day has been a check to me—”such is life, it happens every time”—

and afterwards flung the engagement ring at me. I had panic attack. I felt like I was going to die, like I was doomed. The pain of the past overwhelmed.” He shrugged and gave a bitter smile. “Since then I swore that I won’t get involved with a lady in the “r” kind of way.”

“I don’t blame you at all for that decision. But how do you think the enemy of our soul feels at that?”

Kenneth twitched his lips. “I never thought of that.” He glanced at Kelvin who looked equally surprised.

‘The devil is cheering because despite the success and level of achievement in other aspect of your life, he knows there is a part of your life he has hold of. You are a Christian, Ken, the joy of the Lord should be your strength, not in some aspect of your life but all, I repeat all.”

Kenneth listened with rapt attention.

Kelvin eyes didn’t leave her face.

“It could have been worse, Ken, with respect to the first and last girl, you obviously felt you could do it your own way, without consulting the Seer of hearts, what if you had settled with them just to discover they had been promiscuous all along?”

Kenneth shook his head slowly.

“For your second girl, what if she had died a couple of days after wedlock, wouldn’t you have been more devastated? God’s ways are not our ways. He has better plans for us and he needs us to surrender ourselves completely for it to be accomplished. Kenneth, you need to surrender yourself for his will to be perfected in your life.”

He broke into sobs. “What can I do? I want this hurt to go away, the emptiness right here.” He placed a palm just below his left breast.

Katherine placed a palm on his back and extended the other to Kelvin who took it. Kelvin placed his other palm on his back.

Kenneth nodded with tears in his eyes.

“Unforgiveness is like putting oneself in a room, shutting the door and throwing the keys out via the window. You’ve to forgive those ladies. You’ve to forgive yourself for not seeing them for what they really were, for thinking the second girl might still be alive if you probably offer to drive her, and so on. Stop blaming yourself.”

He sobbed harder.

“Ask God to forgive you for giving up on him. Confess it all and renounce them. Ask God to take up the reins of your life.”

Kenneth inhaled and closed his eyes. Tears freely coursed his cheeks.

“Go ahead, pal.” Kelvin whispered. “Do it now.”

*-*

Kenneth beamed as he looked at the last of the photographs they had taken. The three of them, with Katherine in between.

‘Katherine is my heaven-sent. I feel so liberated, I have peace.” He heaved and grinned. “Please give me suggestions, Kel, what can I buy for her to show appreciation?”

Kelvin regarded him.

“A car would just fine right?”

Kelvin was quick to shake his with a knowing smile. “She won’t accept it.”

“I’ll buy her a wristwatch, jewels and send her some kitchen appliances when I get back.”

“Cool, just perfect.” Kelvin stood. “Come with me to my room, so we read the Bible and pray before going to bed.”

Kenneth stood and stretched.

*-*

That night Katherine supplicated for Kenneth until somewhere in between, her voice trailed off when she started weeping.

***~~~***

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