THE FIFTH

He’d been staring at her for almost half an hour now. Thinking. About them, their love and how far they had come. She was oblivious of all this. Tightly tuck in their bed as he sat on the side, with a soft smile curved on his face. He’d been smiling for long, his head bent towards her, staring into her closed eyes. Marking out her face in his mind for the trillionth time. That face still captivates him to no end.

It’s funny because she’s the one who keeps forgetting about their anniversary. But he on the other hand, remembers them all. Today, it was their fifth.

He’d made breakfast already. It was six minutes to her alarm ringing. For some reason, she never turns it off even on weekends when she didn’t have to go to work. He stood up stealthily and walked out of their bedroom to fetch breakfast. He’d serve it in bed with a red rose. All the replayed scenes from his best love movies were paying off. He was putting in his A1 game.

He walked in to find her seated on the bed, yawning. She stopped mid-way when she saw him;

‘Aaaaw, is that for me?’

‘Morning Kat.’ (One of their pet names). ‘Happy anniversary.’

‘Oh geez, it’s today?’ (Sounding embarrassed).

‘Yep, it’s less costly when one of us remembers…’

They both stare at each other and burst into a short laugh. He placed the tray on her lap and leaned in to kiss her. She zipped her lips tightly, she always said no bad breathe kisses until she’d freshened up, but he never listened. He persisted.

As he recedes from her she stretches her hands wide and says, ‘come here Kat, you deserve a huge hug.’ He can pick up the sentiment in her voice. By now, she’s a few steps away from tears.

He makes good bacon, something about some spices he adds. She sees a small card next to the rose and opens it. He’s studies her carefully. The card reads; ‘you have 45 minutes to get ready. I’ll be in the car waiting to take you to some old place we’ve been before. 44 minutes remaining…’

She gives him that suspicious look as she chows on the bacon. He leans in to kiss her forehead, stands up to walk away. ‘Find me in the car, you have 43 minutes remaining, haha,’ he says.

Obviously she took longer to prepare herself. As he makes the right turn towards Limuru road, she now figures where exactly they could be heading. ‘Kat,’ she calls him, ‘Its Ruaka, right?’

He looks at her for a second and gets his eyes back on the road. ‘Maybe it is, let’s find out.’ She punches him playfully on his left upper arm. ‘There is something in the glove compartment for you,’ he says, looking at her again, ‘wanna check it out?’

She opens it and finds a second card, in a fuchsia coloured envelope just like the first. ‘Let me guess, you’ve stuffed chocolates in here,’ she teases.

‘Wow, what do you know? Super genius Kat!’

‘Ain’t I?’ She brags.

She opens it to find a card and an extra slim flash disk in it. The card reads, ‘Remember this? Play it.’

She plays it on the car radio. It’s a collection of their best songs together, hers especially. ‘You’re such a charmer Kat. You know that, don’t you?’

‘Now I do.’

Bob Marley’s song – Is This Love – starts playing. She screams with excitement, shaking her dreadlocks. They sing to the song word for word, something they did a lot back when they lived in that bedsitter in Ruaka. The one he was taking her to visit after many years.

The music had taken them into a haze of excitement and they didn’t notice how fast they had driven to the place. Sure enough, it was the place she’d predicted. They walked out of the car and knocked at the gate to Mrs. Nana’s compound.

Mrs. Nana was excited to see them when she opened the gate. It had been almost ten years since he lived there, in the rented SQ bedsitter in her massive compound.

‘Steve naona umepikiwa vizuri, sio vile ulikuwa kama bachelor,’ Mrs. Nana says as she leads them towards the bedsitter.

‘Haha, eeh, Joy amefanya kazi poa sana,’ he responds in his pathetic Swahili.

Joy giggles at him shyly.

‘Haya, hizi ndo keys, karibuni.’ Mrs. Nana handed him the keys to the bedsitter.

Joy had this look on her face, a nostalgic look as he opened the door to the bedsitter that had since been turned into a guest room. They both walked in slowly and sat on the brown couch. Then she spoke up, ‘It feels like ages since we were last here.’

‘Yeah, I know. I wanted us to come back at least once, and here we are.’

The room was simply done, with a bed, carpet, a comfortable old looking couch, a table and chair for working. They both looked around the room as if tracing the memories they shared together in there, years ago, when they were both students and she’d come visiting him on weekends. They weren’t as made as they are now, with successful careers, but they had something special between them, love. A love that was growing deeper each day.

She rested her head on his shoulder and sighed slowly. ‘Don’t sleep yet, there’s another card,’ he said nudging her.

‘Where?’

‘In my jacket pocket, right here…’ (Pointing with his eyes towards the pocket).

She threw her hand in there and pulled out the third card; there is a package for you in that table shelf (the card read). ‘Oh my, had you been here before?’ she asked as she stood up to walk to the shelf. He said he’s not sure if he’d been there, lies! But he was just messing with her. A day before he’d come over and stashed a box of her favourite chocolates in that shelf. And something else in the room.

She was enthralled to see the Swiss chocolates. She picked the box, sat next to him then kissed him passionately.

‘It’s official, you’re the best charmer in my world,’ she said.

‘And you’re the best person in my world, Kat.’ They always had that teenage-like tag of words to see who said the sweetest thing to the other. It never grew old even after five years of marriage and counting.

She opened the box. Sank her teeth into one ball and passed the box to him to pick one. They talked for hours reminiscing their love journey, narrating events to each other. ‘Remember when you……’ she’d say to him and they’d talk about it laughing until another memory was bounced off.

It reminded them why they fell in love in the first place and why they needed to keep at it.

There was another card that revealed a bottle of wine and two glasses he’d hidden in the room. They talked for hours downing the cabernet sauvignon from SA. She said it was the best time she’d had in a long while. Just the two of them, away from their twin boys and their busy schedules at work.

Later, they said their last goodbye to Mrs. Nana who wanted them to stay longer for dinner but he politely declined. He started the engine and drove off to their last stop for the night. She thought they were heading home until he said, ‘one last stop Kat’

‘Oh, cool, I could get used to this,’ she said excitedly.

He’d booked a candlelit dinner for two at Sovereign Suites in Red Hill. The hotel rep had been kind enough to ensure his instructions for the set-up were followed to the latter; a bonfire on the side, their seats placed next to the tree that was draped with soft lights giving a romantic scene for their dinner. More wine, some Spanish instrumental music playing and a four course meal.

When they got there, she was awestruck! Fascinated by how much he’d thought all this through yet keeping it simple. Small and intimate like she loved it.

At that point, she shed some tears. Tears of bliss. Finally.

He pulled her chair, sat down and placed his hand on hers. And with terms know to them – using song lyrics to say something sweet – he asked her, while staring deep into her big beautiful eyes;

‘How long will you love me?’

She held his other hand across the table, looked into his gaze and responded;

‘As long as stars are above us.’

The night was right. The moon exquisite, the stars shinning and their love on flames.

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