Promise in the Dark
“So how did you and Juliet meet again?” Greg asked Jackson after he finished telling him the story
about his past with Juliet.
“I wrote to Juliet almost every day of the week during my undergrad studies and sent the emails
through Makasa hoping he would run into her one day but nothing like that happened.” Jackson
said. “Makasa searched and searched but couldn’t find any trace of Juliet or her family. It was as if
they had been wiped off the face of the earth.
“I came back home immediately after my graduation and tried to do my own search but still, I
couldn’t find her. I had to travel to Florida for an internship so I didn’t have much time. Fortunately
we had social media now so I randomly searched for Juliet’s name but only came across her sister
Alice’s profile. Her profile said she lived here in Lusaka, I was ecstatic!”
“Don’t tell me you contacted that evil witch first?” Greg asked.
“I did,” Jackson said. “I had no choice. She was the only link I had to Juliet.”
“God you’re such a fool.” His friend said.
“What did you expect me to do?” Jackson asked. “Desperate situations call for desperate
measures. I had no choice. I messaged Alice asking her about Juliet’s whereabouts and to my
surprise, she responded seconds later. She said she heard I was studying abroad and wanted us
to link up but she didn’t answer my question about her sister. She asked for my number, said it
was better to call and I gave her.”
“S-cker.” Greg muttered.
“She called right away and suggested we meet at Mandahill. I insisted that I only contacted her
because I wanted to find out where Juliet was and she said something in the lines of ‘it’s better if
we meet in person…I can’t tell you over the phone.’ Of course my heart started racing after
hearing that and I asked her if something had happened to Juliet, I mean, there were no signs of
“Alice ignored my question and said she would meet me at Mandahill in the next hour. I drove
straight there like a mad man. I found her sitting outside Debonairness. I recognized her right
away. She looked exactly like I expected her to look; very beautiful and uncomfortably underdressed
for anyone humanly aware that they would be stepping outside their house.”
Greg made noses with his throat.
Jackson stopped talking and threw him a cold stare. “What’s wrong with you?”
“Nothing,” Greg lied, a mischievous smile on his face. “I didn’t say nothin.” He said.
“Get your mind off the gutter man. I don’t feel like that about her anymore. Remember, I know her
beyond her beautiful exterior. It was her sister I was interested in and if she didn’t hold the keys to
me finding her, I wouldn’t have met her in the first place.”
“If you say so.” Grey mumbled, his wh0le body said he didn’t believe a word his friend had just
“Forget it.” Jackson snapped. “I see no point in telling you this story if you insist on believing
whatever versions you cook up in your head.” He was up on his feet.
Greg ran over to him and forced him back down onto the sofa. “I’m sorry man, I was just pulling
your leg. I want to hear the rest of the story, like, did she tell you where to find her sister?”
“No chance,” Jackson said. “She told me some story about how Juliet married at a young age
because she loved money so much she wanted to get away from her family. Then she told me
Juliet had four kids now and was living happily in Malawi and that I shouldn’t disturb her happy
“The hell?” Greg said.
“I know right.” Jackson said. “I didn’t believe a word she was saying. I was not yet the
businessman that I am today back then. I had just finished undergrad but still she could tell there
was something different about me. I could see the excitement on her face, she obviously hoped I
still had the hots for her and thought she had a chance with me and I hated that about her. I hated
how sure she was that I would fall for her. She still thought of me as that little infatuated poor boy. I
knew Juliet would never marry anyone for money and-“
“People change dude.” Greg said. “You hadn’t seen her in eight long years. Look at yourself, you
are not the same guy they used to know. You are a millionaire now, two great companies under
your name and everyone bows wherever you go. Who knew that poor little boy selling fritters in
the market would turn out like this? People change man.”
“Yes, maybe people change but in my case that’s not it. My circ-mstances are the ones that
changed, I didn’t. And I believed the same would be the case with Juliet. She had made a promise
to me and I believed her. She always kept her word to me and I had no reason whatsoever to
“If truly Juliet had gotten married, then it would have been for love and not for the reasons Alice
had given me but still, even if it was love, I wasn’t ready to accept something like that. I didn’t want
to imagine her with some other guy. I couldn’t.”
“You didn’t even know her as a woman.” Greg reminded him. “She was just a little girl when you
last saw her.”
“I know.” Jackson said. “Even as a little girl I knew she would one day turn into one hell of a
woman. I had not stopped thinking about her all those years. She was the reason I was able to
finish school and even get a scholarship. I owed her my life and I wanted to repay her. I didn’t
want to picture some other guy making her happy while I continued with my life like nothing ever
True to his words, Jackson had spent the weeks that followed his meeting with Alice still searching
for Juliet until he finally found an old classmate of hers who gave him an update and exact
“She should be back home for holidays in a couple of weeks” Nancy informed him.
“When did she go to Namibia?” Jackson asked.
They were standing outside Nancy’s home in Chelstone. He had just managed to chance her as
she arrived home from work.
“Last year.” Nancy replied. “She’s still in her first year.”
“Where was she all this time?”
“After that incident at her place eight years ago, her family really fell from grace.” Nancy said.
“Alice’s father dumped them in some village and stopped supporting them. It was only after her
sister Alice got married to some lawyer that they came back to Lusaka. Unfortunately, both Mrs
Mwansa and Alice blamed her for what had happened to them and so they didn’t send her back to
school. Juliet had to sell fritters at the market to raise money to go back to school. It was such a
struggle at first but she finally managed to get back to school after three years.
“Her sister Alice didn’t stay long in her marriage. She partied hard and openly embarrassed and
disrespected her husband. He divorced her just after a year and sent all of them packing from his
house. Fortunately, she was clever enough to get half his money and that’s how the three of them
survived. Juliet graduated and got a scholarship to study at the University of Namibia a year after
finishing high school and that’s where she is now. I spoke to her two days ago and she said they
would be closing in two weeks.”
“What is she studying there?” He asked.
“I see. I need to see her as soon as possible before I travel back to the States. Do you mind giving
me her number?”
Nancy gave him the number and the following day Jackson travelled to Namibia to see Juliet. He
had not called her until he arrived on campus hoping to surprise her. Using information given to
him by Nancy, Jackson waited for Juliet to appear from the Library.
“Juliet.” He called out to her when she walked passed him. She had not even turned to look his
Juliet stopped and looked back to where he was standing. “Yes-“ she paused, immediately
recognizing him. “Jack!?”
Jackson grinned from ear to ear. He had seen her pictures from Nancy’s phone and he had
thought she looked beautiful. But now that he was seeing her in person, she looked way more
beautiful than he would have imagined. He had always known she would turn out to be a fine
young lady but seeing her as a woman after so many years, something inside him came to life.
“My God, Juliet.” He said, not sure whether to scoop her up into his arms or to just stand back and
take in the sight of her. Either way, he was completely at a loss, the true definition of a man
smitten to the ground.
Juliet saved him by throwing herself into his arms instead, attracting the attention of passers-by.
Jackson had to steady his feet on the ground to hold her. “You’re definitely not ten years old
anymore little Miss Know-it-all.”
Juliet laughed, dropping her arms from around him to look at him properly. “I was thirteen when we
last saw each other.” She said.
“And now you’re a full grown woman, a beautiful one at that.” Jackson said.
“How did you even find me?” Juliet asked.
“Is there any place we can go and chat?” He was feeling unease by the attention they were
receiving from where they were standing.
“Let’s go to my room.” Juliet offered. “My roommate is inside studying so it will be a while before
She led him to her room.
“Not bad.” Jackson said as she ushered him inside. She pulled out a chair for him from the study
table in the corner and she sat down on the bed.
“I only have tea so I can’t offer you anything else.” She said.
“No am fine, don’t worry about that.” Jackson said.
“When did you come back?” Juliet asked.
“A few weeks ago.” He said. “And I have been searching for you since.”
“How did you find me?”
“Nancy,” he said. “I remembered she used to be one of your closest friends at school. I searched
for her online and she led me here.”
“I just spoke to her a few min…wait, she is the one that told you where to find me right?”
Jackson laughed. “I told her to keep it a secret. I wanted to surprise you.”
“Well, you’ve succeeded.”
“I am hoping it’s not a bad kind of surprise.” Jackson said.
“Of course not!” She said. “Why would you even think that?”
“Because you knew where to find my contacts but you never once made an effort to reach out to
me.” He said.
“Oh.” She said.
“Oh? Is that all you’re going to say Juliet? I have been searching for you for eight wh0le years.”
“I mean, I knew you would be looking for me.” she said.
“Then why did you make it so hard for me to find you?” He asked. “I thought we had an
agreement. You made me a promise Juliet…unless you’ve forgotten.”
“How can I forget?” She said, her voice just a few notches from whispering
“Do we really need to talk about this now Jackson?” She asked. “We just met, after like…eight
Despite the years Jackson still knew her better. “What’s going on Julie?”
“What do you mean?” She was shifting uncomfortably on the bed. “Nothing is going on, you’re just
thinking too much.”
“Is it because of what happed that day? Do you blame me? I would understand if you hated me
but still, I would appreciate it if we at least spoke about it first.”
“Why would you think I blame you for what happened?” She asked. “You were just trying to help
me out and it wasn’t your fault things didn’t go as planned. I have never once blamed you for that,
“Then why won’t you tell me what’s really going on? Why have you been avoiding me?”
Juliet dropped her head into her laps and sighed heavily. She sat up straight after a few seconds
and looked at Jackson. “Things have changed, Jackson.” She said. There were unshed tears in
her eyes. “We have both changed, a lot has changed. I am grateful that you kept your promise to
me but…I would rather we didn’t see each other again.”
Jackson had left some room for disappointment but still, having her actually say the words out loud
to him caused him more pain that he had anticipated. Her words pierced him straight to the heart.
What exactly had he hoped for?
“Could what your sister said be true? Are you married?” He couldn’t believe he had said the words
out loud but he didn’t regret asking.
“Married? What are you talking about?” Juliet asked.
“I spoke to your sister first before finding Nancy. She said that you married young and have four
kids. Of course I didn’t believe her but-“
“But now you’re thinking that she must have been telling you the truth?” She finished for him. Her
tone was draped in absolute disappointment that her face could not hide.
“I am just trying to make sense of what’s going on.” Jackson said.
“And I thought you knew me better than that.” She said. “I made you a promise and I kept it. Yes I
might have avoided meeting you but still, I was going to meet you when I was ready. I just didn’t
want it to be now.”
“Why not now? What changes?” He asked.
“I knew that if you met me now…when the situation is still like this, you might blame yourself for
“So what, you wanted to finish school and become some rich madam that’s when you were going
to contact me? You just accused me of not knowing you better and yet here you are doing the
same thing. Do you think any of that matters to me?”
“It matters to me!” She cried, getting up from the bed.
Jackson stood up as well. “Why does it matter so much to you?”
“Because I am ashamed.” She said.
Jackson’s jaw dropped to the ground. “Ashamed of what?”
“We are grown-ups now Jackson,” she said. “Things are different now than they were eight years
ago. I love the fact that we both stood by each other during the most trying times of our lives but
for me…right now…all I remember are the shameful things that happened to me. Just knowing
that you know all those details about me, and about my family…what they did to me, to you, and
what they did to your family…how can I possibly pretend none of that ever happened?”
“Who asked you to forget anything Julie?” He said. “I don’t care about any of those things right
now. All I care about is that you’re here and am here. We survived what most people wouldn’t and
we are standing here, alive.”
“Yeah, just because we are alive does not mean we are automatically happy.” She said.
When did she become such a pessimist? Jackson wondered.
“Are you saying that you are not happy Julie?”
“Is there anything about my life that should make me happy Jack, huh?”
“How about the fact that we are seeing each other after such a long time? Doesn’t that make you
“Of course it does but for how long?” She said. “You can afford to be happy yourself because your
life has improved, but you have no idea what I’ve been through to get where I am today. You have
no idea how many times I have thought about ending my own life just so I can get some peace.
Sometimes I get so tired I just want to sleep and never wake up again.
“That’s the kind of person I’ve become Jack; sad, cold, lonely and suicidal. Obviously that’s not the
Juliet you remember but unfortunately that’s who I am now.” She said. “In as much as I love
seeing you, I hate the fact that you are a reminder of how bad things really are in my life and how
far apart you and I have grown.”
Jackson wanted desperately to plead with her but the look in her eyes told him she had already
made up her mind. She no longer needed him in her life. For a very long time he had hoped that
they would be each other’s source of happiness on earth, that they would face the odds together
like they did back then but hearing her say that he reminded her of such pain and nothing else tore
him to pieces.
Jackson got on a bus back to Zambia in tears. The last time he had cried like that was when he
had seen the vehicle carrying Juliet’s family disappear into the distance.
“How did you finally get her to agree to go out with you?” Greg asked Jackson.
Between them, they had emptied twelve bottles of beer since Jackson came back home from
dropping off Juliet after the fateful encounter with his mother.
“It would take eight more years for us to meet again but this time around, I was determined to win
her over. At any cost.” Jackson said.
To be continued…
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