Lisa was the beauty and talk of the town. She had a very proportioned body, long neck, slim waist and wide hips. Necks turned whenever she walked into a room. One day, she was at a brunch organized by Peter—one of her friends—and accidentally bumped into a handsome man.

            “Ooh I’m so sorry I didn’t see you there!” Lisa said.

            “You are lucky you are so beautiful, I can’t be mad at you,” he replied. He was masculine and tall; she could see he was from Arabic descent. It was love at first sight, for Lisa at-least.

            His name was John, and they talked throughout the brunch and well into the night. When Peter told them it was time to go home, they exchanged phone numbers before going their separate ways. For Lisa, that night was magical.

            The next few days, Lisa and John spoke for hours on the phone, meeting up for drinks at his place a few times. They never met in public, but Lisa didn’t see this as a red flag. She thought he must have loved her so much that he opened his home to her.

            Hours turned to days, days to months.

            One morning, Lisa felt nauseous. She took medication against malaria, without knowing for sure if it was indeed malaria that made her feel sick. When she texted John how she felt, he responded immediately. Normally, it took him days to reply, and he only messaged her first if he wanted her to go over to his place. All these red flags were unseen to Lisa. The expression ‘love is blind’ is really true…

            John did not treat Lisa like a lover or girlfriend. He never called to check up on her and never took her on a proper date. He knew she was the easiest person to have his way with when he felt sexually aroused.

            Two months later, Lisa realized she was pregnant. She had only been with John, so she packed a bag and headed to his house. She knocked on his door and a few moments later, a girl wearing John’s T-shirt opened. Lisa was furious. She pushed the girl to the side and stormed into the house.

            “John, who is this naked woman in your house?” she asked, almost tearing up.

            “Oh Lisa, I didn’t know you were coming over. I didn’t ask you to come here today,” John said.

            Lisa started crying and said she was pregnant, and that she had come because she had nowhere else to go. John panicked. The girl in the t-shirt was the lesser of his problems now that Lisa had announced the news.

            “But we always used protection, it can’t be mine,” he said.

            “What? What are you saying? You broke my virginity and you are the only man I’ve been with,” Lisa said angrily.

            “Yeah, but are you sure you are pregnant?” John asked.

            “Yes I am…”

            “Okay, so this is what you are going to do… You can’t stay here. I’ll give you some money and you go to the hospital and get that taken care of, okay?” John said as he sat down on the sofa.

            “Are you suggesting I have an abortion John?” she shouted at the top of her voice, feeling shocked at what had come out of his mouth, the love of her life who had promised her heaven on earth, the man who had made so many promises to her in bed.

            “You know I’m not ready for a child and I don’t want to be stuck taking care of you and that thing in your stomach. We can get rid of it right now and still enjoy our lives together,” he said with a straight face.

            Lisa was too shocked to speak. She left his house, tears streaming from her eyes. John didn’t to go after her at all. Back home, she told her parents what happened. Her parents got very angry when they heard what John had asked her to do as abortion was a taboo. They asked her where he lived, so she took them to his house, but when they rang his bell, no one answered.

            Luckily, Lisa’s parents were supportive and protective. They kept returning to John’s house for a few days, but to no avail. Two months passed, and none of John’s friends had seen him around town.

            Then, one fateful morning, Peter met John with another young girl at the taxi stage. John panicked when he saw Peter.

            “Hello my brother, how are you?” Peter asked. “It has been long! Did you travel out of Uganda these past months?”

            “Uhm, yes, I’ve traveled but I’m back now. How have you been my brother?” John’s forehead was sweaty.

            “Well, I am very disappointed in you John.”

            “What is wrong? What happened?” John tried to look surprised, but Peter could tell he was faking it.

            “Let’s wait for your friend to get a taxi and then we can have a drink and talk about it,” Peter said.

            When the girl left in a taxi, John and Peter headed to a bar, and Peter texted his location to Lisa, telling her to come as soon as possible.

            Lisa’s parents called the police. While Peter and John had drinks and discussed business, Lisa’s parents showed up with the police and arrested John.

            John was taken into custody. Lisa wrote a statement, asking the police to not put her baby’s father in jail, because she still loved him. John was given an ultimatum: he had to pay Lisa’s dowry and take her home so she could give birth while she was with him, or go to prison.

            John immediately took this offer. It was better than sleeping in a police cell. That evening, he went back home with Lisa but he never said a word to her, nor did he touch her. When the week came for her dowry to be paid, he paid it in full, but he continued to give Lisa the silent treatment.

            Months passed. Lisa tried to make John love her again. She cooked and cleaned, even when she was heavy with the baby. She tried to massage his legs whenever he came back from work but he would push her away roughly. Then came the moment when John wouldn’t eat the food Lisa prepared for him anymore. Often, he came home drunk, calling Lisa names and beating her up in the hopes she’d leave the house, but she never did.

            One day, when she was eight months pregnant, Lisa was cleaning the house as she always did. She went into John’s bedroom (they didn’t share a bedroom anymore) and found an envelope with a one-way ticket to Ethiopia. She didn’t really understand what she was seeing, so she just placed the envelope back in the cupboard when she was finished cleaning it.

            That night, John came back home in a hurry. As always, he didn’t say anything to Lisa. She wasn’t allowed to go inside his room, so just stood at the door, looking at him packing his belongings in a backpack.

            “What is the rush for? Do you want to have some dinner?” Lisa asked. As always, there was no response. “Anyways, we need to start shopping for the bay because I feel I’m almost due,” she added.

            John got so furious and walked towards Lisa and slapped her. “I told you to stop talking to me, you gold digger. You wanted to come and stay in this big house right? You got it now, you managed to tie me to this baby and make my life a living hell! My wife knows I got a girl pregnant and she wants to divorce me because of you, you stupid village girl!” There was so much fury in his voice, and he continued to hit Lisa. She was in utter shock and in so much pain. John never mentioned he was married. He did not wear a ring, and she never saw any photographs of him with his wife. Besides, when they met, he assured her that he was single.

            She screamed for help and John grabbed his bag, dashing out of the house. Lisa had gone through so much stress that she went into labor. The baby was coming. She called her parents who rushed to pick her up and took her to the hospital. Luckily, the hospital was nearby. There, she was rushed into the labor room, and after about two hours of screaming and crying she gave birth to a baby boy.

            As happy as her parents were to have a grandson, Lisa lay there in bed feeling very sad because she was only a placeholder in John’s life. He’d never love her the way she loved him. It broke her, but she had a child that brought her joy and love. She knew it was going to be a tough journey. The child reminded her of him, and how she was treated by him, but she also knew this baby wasn’t John but another person who was going to be by her side till she was gray and old. She named him Blessed Endurance Alema, for he was a blessing and she had endured and will continue to endure anything her way to protect him.

12 February, 2023