Valley of decisions
It is purely a work of fiction. Any similarities to persons (living or
deceased) are coincidental and a product of the author’s imagination.
It was a beautiful day in Baron and the weather smelled nice,
engulfed in the bloom of flowers and the brightness of the shining
sun. I had asked for a table outside but the café was full to the brim.
There were people everywhere so we settled for a table in the middle
of the café.
I was staring at the couple sitting beside us with their baby; they
looked so in love, giggling and holding hands. I smiled wishing I was
that lucky lady. The smile I had quickly faded as I turned back to
continue my conversation with my boyfriend. I had asked him a
very important question but he refused to give me the answer.
He looked up from his phone, stared at me for a few seconds and
carried on with whatever he was doing on his phone. I wanted to
grab the phone out of his hands and fling it as far away as possible.
Instead, I banged my hands on the table and said, “I am getting so
tired of you stringing me along Ben; enough of this. Do you want to
marry me or not?”
Taken aback, he looked at me like I was crazy but still managed to
catch the bottle of lemonade that almost fell off the table.
“Laila, look I have told you more than a thousand times that we will
get married when the time is right,” he said. “Stop putting pressure
on me, okay?”
I stared at him blankly and began to think about my life. How did I
get myself into this mess? This is not what I had in mind at all. I had
done everything possible I knew to do. I had spoken up, poured out
my heart, and even dragged Ben to every relationship seminar I
heard of, just to get him to commit to me.
Nothing seemed to work!
In fact, we had just taken a one-day road trip out of town to
Rockville, for yet another relationship seminar and decided to stop
somewhere for a snack as we headed back home.
We had already eaten but I told him I wanted us to talk about
something very important before we left. I needed to get this over
and done with.
His voice and the snapping of his fingers brought me back to reality.
“Laila! Hello! Did you hear me? I said are we good to go?”
I was upset at his utter disregard for my feelings, and before I knew
it, I was yelling, totally ignoring the stares I was getting from the
“I never put pressure on you! How many times do I have to remind
you that you need to meet my parents? We have been in this thing
you call a relationship for seven years and my parents don’t know
anything about you.” I paused to catch my breath. “If they’d never
spoken to you, I doubt that they’d believe you exist. Does that make
any sense to you?”
Ben looked around the cafe embarrassed as he removed his wallet
from his pocket.
He looked at me disapprovingly.
“I think it’s time to leave,” he said and sighed loudly as he opened his
wallet and brought out a few bills.
“Look, I’ve told you I will meet them when I am ready to propose to
you. You’re being a drama queen.” Ben folded his arms and leaned
back in his chair. “If that’s not good enough for you, too bad!”
I also leaned back as I let out a frustrated sigh, struggling to
keep myself from slapping him hard, right across the face.
“I’ve had it, Ben!” I blurted out. “You’re not going to keep playing me
for a fool. What do you mean by when you’re ready to propose?
Exactly how much longer do you need to make up your mind?”
I didn’t wait for his response.
I was close to tears and started talking loudly to myself as I placed
both my hands on my head. “Laila, why are you doing this to
yourself? Why would you allow anyone to treat you…?”
Ben stood up abruptly before I could finish my sentence, and just as
he was about to grab his jacket, I stood up and shoved him back into
By this time, I could hear some murmuring and giggling around me,
but I didn’t care.
He looked at me shocked and said, “You need to get yourself together
and stop making a scene. If I didn’t want to be with you, don’t you
think I would have gotten lost a long time ago?”
I sat down abruptly and picked up my fork, ready to throw it at him.
I was too slow. He almost knocked the table over trying to dodge my
“Stop asking me silly questions,” I yelled. “What about me? Are you
thinking about how all this makes me feel?” I laughed. “No! Of
course, you’re not. It’s all about Ben. It’s all about Benjamin Manda.
As long as everything is working out for you, his royal highness, no
one else matters. Not even me; the woman you claim to love,” I said
as I rolled my eyes dramatically.
I started to calm down as I noticed the puzzled stares from around
the cafe. I admit I shouldn’t have been so dramatic but I had taken
more than enough of this. I can be a drama queen sometimes but
anyone who knows Ben won’t blame me. He hardly takes anything
seriously. I could feel a migraine coming and my tears were getting
closer to the surface but I was not going to let this man make me cry
so I guess I felt yelling was a better option.
The baby beside us suddenly burst out screaming. That was my cue
to end this drama I was playing out in front of all these strangers. As
much as I didn’t want to, I finally succvmbed to the irritated and
disapproving stares shot my way, so I lowered my voice.
I leaned forward and began to whisper. “Don’t call me a drama
queen, Ben. I just want to be sure of this path that we’ve been on
since Noah started building the ark.”
He suddenly burst out laughing like he had heard the joke of the
century. His laughter was aggravating my migraine and I seriously
reconsidered holding back that slap. He took a sip from his glass of
lemonade and looked straight at me. “I am done talking about this,”
he said. “Since you’re obviously not in a hurry to get back home, let’s
talk about something else. How’s that employment discrimination
case you’re handling?”
I couldn’t believe him. He dismissed me just like that! I waved him
off. “I don’t want to discuss that with you,” I said. “We are not done
with this conversation. You think I don’t see that you are brushing
me off again?”
Ben knew I loved my job as a lawyer and I could talk about it even in
my sleep. Anytime he wants to change the conversation – which is
often, he begins with my cases at work. Many times, I fell for it but I
made up my mind that not this time. I was done with him treating
me like a little child he could wind around his little finger.
I looked him straight in his eyes, channelling every emotion I felt in
that moment to him, and said, “I am giving you this ultimatum for
the final time, Ben. My parents will be here in 2 months and I expect
you to do right by me or…”
He slammed his glass on the table and pointed his finger at me. “I
would advise you not to finish that statement, Laila Ocheng. I won’t
take that from you.”
I was about to respond when my eye caught a waitress storming
towards our table. At that moment, Ben stood up, grabbed his jacket,
flung the cash on the table and stormed out without saying a word to
I called out to this man who had chosen to make a complete fool out
“Ben! Don’t walk out on me! Let’s end this conversation here. Ben!
I felt a tap on my shoulder. “Excuse me, ma’am. It’s time for you to
leave. You are being a nuisance to the customers here.” She stood
there with a scowl on her face and her hands on her hips.
I began to pack my things together. “Me? Leave? A nuisance? How?” I
asked. “I was just trying to have a conversation with my boy…”
She cut me off with the wave of her hand. “Yes, we all heard. You
have spent seven years with him and you have nothing to show for
it.” She said this while rolling her eyes and shaking her ring finger in
my face. I didn’t miss the laughter that erupted from the two ladies
on the other side of my table. I wanted to shrink.
I stood up. “I won’t dignify that with a response; otherwise I may end
up in jail tonight,” I said. “Excuse me,” I angrily muttered as I
intentionally brushed past her, and scurried through the café,
towards the door.
I stepped outside and began to walk to where we had parked the car,
Bay 7. I remember because that is how long I have wasted on Ben. 7
years of my adult life; and just like the waitress said, I have nothing
to show for it!
I was fuming so much on the inside that I didn’t realize I was at bay
13. I walked back to bay 7 and I was greeted by an empty parking
bay. “Where is the car?” I screamed to no one in particular. I refused
to believe that Ben left me here, over two hours away from home.
I paced back and forth between the bays in disbelief and looked
around, hoping the car would magically appear with Ben in it. There
was no sign of him.
I stood in the middle of the parking lot, looking helpless. I couldn’t
hold back the tears anymore. I lowered myself to the ground, leaned
on a car and let the tears flow.
Every. Last. Drop.
I don’t know how long I sobbed uncontrollably for but I didn’t stop
until I was interrupted.
“Excuse me. Are you alright?” I looked up and saw a gentleman
standing in front of me, handing me some tissue.
I stood up and began to dust myself off. “Uhm. Yes, I am just fine.
Thank you for this,” I said as I reached for the tissue.
I was too embarrassed to say anything more so I walked away from
him as quickly as I could. He called out to me but I ignored him.
I suddenly stopped and frantically searched through my handbag for
my cell phone. I called Ben, and it rang for what seemed like an
eternity before he bothered to pick up.
“Hello!” he said hastily.
“Ben! You have got to be kidding me,” I said in disbelief.
He let out a frustrated sigh.”Laila, what do you want?” he asked.
If I could grab his throat through the phone, I would have. “Are you
serious?” I yelled. “Ben, you left me here in the middle of nowhere.
Are you insane? How do you expect me to get home?” I asked.
He had the nerve to laugh. “Okay, I will come back for you if you
promise not to nag me over this again.”
I dropped my shoulders. “Ben, I wasn’t nagging you. I only asked you
the same question I’ve been asking for a long time. If you are no
longer interested, just tell me and we can break up. Isn’t that part of
what we learnt today?”
He sighed. “I need more time, Laila. I don’t want to rush into
More time, after 7 long years? I thought to myself. However, I didn’t
have the energy to get into another pointless row with Ben. At this
point, all I wanted was to get home. I just needed him to come back
and pick me up. “I hear you, Ben. Can you please come and pick me
up?” I dryly asked.
He took his time to respond. “I need you to promise me that we won’t
have this conversation again for some time, Laila.” Hesitantly, I said,
“Whatever Ben, it’s a deal.”
Ben’s black Nissan Altima appeared behind me in what seemed like
less than a minute. He parked the car beside me and unlocked the
car. I was still very upset and it showed in the way I opened the
passenger door, jumped in and slammed the door shut.
He had a wide grin on his face, which I found very irritating but he
didn’t seem to care. He reached behind my seat and gave me a
bouquet of red roses – my favourite! “I’m sorry for driving off. Please
forgive me,” he said.
I took the flowers, leaned back and closed my eyes. “It’s fine. Let’s go,”
I said. Remember I have my dentist appointment and I need to make
it to church in time for the service this evening.”
I looked at him. “I promised Rachel that I’ll sit with her twin babies
while she joins the choir.”
His grin turned into a frown. “Yeah, yeah! I know you have to get to
church,” he said as he reached for his sunglasses. “You do know that
once we get married, you will have to slow down on all your church
Oh no, I thought! We’re not about to start another round on this long
I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. I wouldn’t let him push my buttons
for a second time today. With all the calmness I could muster, I said,
“Look, Ben. As I have told you time and again, not even you can
separate me from some things.”
“We’ll see about that, Laila Ocheng,” he said.
He put on his sunglasses, increased the volume of the song on the
radio, and sped off before I could respond.