To one of the nicest, strongest, and most genuine people I’ve ever met in my life, my friend, thank you for trusting me with your story. I love you.
At varsity, a friend of mine fell in love with a married man.
It started as a joke one afternoon when he approached her and said he’d like to be friends. She was with our mutual friends when this happened, whilst I was out shooting a music video as part of my school curriculum for the year. When I eventually got back to our dormitory, the ladies were excited to relay the story to me. My friend blushed as the ladies gave me an update of what had transpired. I knew this guy had made an impression on her because she remembered every detail about him, like what he was wearing, his smell, his outfit~ his haircut (this always made me laugh, but my friend is that kind of a lady, when she likes you, she notices everything about you).
What she didn’t tell us that night however is that she had left him her number. Two days later, he called. And they communicated via text messages for a few weeks, until he proposed that they meet. After all, they were “just friends”.
My friend dolled herself up for their just-friends-date but it ended in tears. She texted me after their date and asked that we meet up at the computer lab saying she needed to talk privately. I went to meet her.
Immediately when I saw her, I knew she had been crying. Her eyes were red, her mascara was running and her bottom lip was quivering (side note: my friend is not that kind of girl, her T’s are always crossed and her i’s are always dotted, especially when it comes to her image).
All I could do was wrap my arms around her.
At their date, he had confessed that he was married. He also mentioned that even though he was attracted to her, he had no intention of leaving his wife or letting his children grow up without a father. She was shattered. But she applauded him for his honesty. I empathized with my friend and we concluded that she had to respect their union and walk away.
And she did, for a while.
Two months later, he called. He muttered something about how unhappy he was at home and finished off by saying he missed her.
Their “friendship” was rekindled.
But these things don’t stay innocent for too long, a joke here and a flirtatious comment there, and soon, their connection developed into an intense crush. By the third semester, the crush became a full blown relationship. He was officially her boyfriend. And she was his mistress. We nicknamed him “Mr Man”, it was a perfect nickname; ‘Mr’ referred to the part of his life we knew nothing about, and ‘Man’ because to us, he was just that, my friend’s man.
She knew that dating a married man was a bad idea but she had convinced herself that there was a possibility of a happily-ever-after for her and another woman’s husband. She had hung around him for so long that it became easy for her to buy into everything he was saying. She was what we call, attached.
Even though he remained adamant that he would never leave his wife, that didn’t stop him from giving her hope. He often joked about her being Mrs Man one day. As inappropriate as their relationship was, they were cute together and they made each other incredibly happy. And from where we were watching, he treated her like a princess; he was kind to her, he supported her dreams and he spoilt her (we were students in varsity wearing Guess jeans for crying out loud, smiley face).
What I appreciated most about Mr Man however was how he carried himself. He was calm and disciplined. He always said, “Please” and “Thank you.” He was polite and thoughtful. I dare say, he was a decent guy. I always secretly wondered if he was a good man who had drifted apart from his wife or a villain we had become incredibly fond of. My heart was at war when it came to Mr Man, I felt guilty for being supportive of his relationship with my friend (while his wife probably worried about his whereabouts). With that said, I couldn’t ignore the good traits that made him such a wonderful person. I guess it’s never that easy to judge someone because the good comes with the bad.
I can’t even begin to think how their affair devastated his family (more importantly his wife), but my friend and I never discussed such. And here’s something I learnt; when your friend crosses the morality boundary, you can confront her, try to correct or advise her but she is still entitled to her own decisions. And quite frankly, at that age, I was more interested in maintaining my friendships than anything else. She knew where I stood on the matter and that was enough for me. Before long, my friend’s relationship with this married man became a norm to us and by the time they celebrated two years together, we had become completely oblivious of the fact that this man had another life we knew nothing about.
Mr Man was a businessman with lots of money at his disposal, and we were beneficiaries of every good deal he made. He loved to spoil my friend but he understood that his lady was happier when she was with her friends, as a result, he treated us well.
I don’t know much about cars but Mr Man owned three of the most beautiful and most expensive cars I’ve ever been driven in. He was a simple man, always neatly and comfortably dressed but somehow looked incredibly classy. He didn’t like going to crowded places (now that I think about it, even though he enjoyed taking us to nice places, he rarely spent time with us outside our dorm. He would drop us off, introduce us to a few people and leave us to enjoy ourselves while he organized someone to pick us up later). This is the life we lived in varsity. I had never been exposed to such VIP treatment before, I felt as though I was in a movie. But don’t be misled, we were very focused on our studies as well. One of the reasons we have still remained friends until now is that we have always motivated and inspired one another. Those were incredibly fun times; life was easy, my family was intact, studies were going well, my friend was in love with Mr Man; and most importantly (to me anyway), I was celebrating two years of love with my first boyfriend. Life was bliss.
Occasionally my friend and her man fought about his wife and the fact that he couldn’t offer her more than what they currently had. She wanted more, he couldn’t offer it. And typical Mr Man would throw more money at the problem. The wife knew about the existence of my friend and on several occasions she would call to hurl insults at her.
They texted each other angry messages every now and then but somehow, Mr Man always got away with murder. They would get mad at him but both his ladies always found a way of loving him in spite of all the drama and pain. It seemed as though living with the knowledge that he wasn’t faithful was better than being without him. Even though Mr Man was handsome, I think there was something more about him that drew them in, they couldn’t let go… It was his power.
Third year was a challenge for me at varsity. I was going through a lot with my family. I had made a terrible life decision and I was under immense pressure to do well at school in an effort to win back their affection. Everything else took a backseat so I could focus on my #WinBackMyFamily campaign. In that time, my friend got pregnant with Mr Man’s child. But she withheld this information from me to save me the stress (according to her), but I also suspect that her decision had a lot to do with fear and guilt.
Although we lived right next to each other, we started seeing less of each other. We spoke on the phone regularly about school and life in general but we rarely spent time together but I thought nothing of it, after all, we were seniors now and the pressure to do well was on. What you should know about us is that by that time, we were the go-to people at varsity. We were part of so many committees and leadership programmes, you could’ve easily mistaken us for celebrities. Even with that responsibility, we didn’t falter on our studies, we helped each other to keep our eyes on the prize. It is a wonderful thing to have a friend who can challenge you like that, I sincerely believe that much of my academic success at varsity was due to her. She never allowed me to lose focus on what I was there for; to study.
One winter night while I was getting ready for bed, I heard voices coming from her room but the lights were off. I assumed that Mr Man was sleeping over. I was wrong. It turns out, Mr Man’s wife had found out about the pregnancy and as expected, she was spitting fire. The wife’s sister had tracked my friend down and somehow (although we have our suspicions) she gained access to our residential house and broke into my friend’s room, and here’s the scary part, she waited for her. This scares me because I can only imagine what she was thinking while she was waiting. What would she say to her? What was her plan?
We don’t know how long she waited for but when my friend got home, she was in for a surprise. The sister was candid with her; she ordered my friend to end her relationship with Mr Man otherwise she was prepared to not only physically hurt, but also kill her.
That morning, we sat in the hallway and spoke about everything that had happened. That was the first time I ever missed class… In the afternoon, I accompanied my friend to the clinic to get an abortion. It was one of the saddest days of our lives.
By August, the scars of what had happened were beginning to heal. Mr Man had sent dozens of flowers, messages and gifts to our res, but their relationship had suffered an irreparable blow. It was difficult to go back to life as we knew it.
In one of his apology notes he apologized for putting pressure on her to abort their child and went on to explain how much stress he was under at home and how bringing a child into the world would complicate his life even further. Ultimately, it was her decision but his lack of empathy didn’t make it easy. He simply ended the note with, “When the time is right, we will have our baby.” My heart sank. I was in a mess of my own in terms of my relationship but I felt as though my pain was nothing compared to what my friend was going through. We mourned the loss together. With time, I prayed she would heal.
A month before her birthday, they got back together. It didn’t make sense to any of us but one thing we understood is that she felt drawn to him. It was as though she couldn’t live without him. She felt paired with him, spellbound, hooked~ and all that mattered was him. She was consumed with loving him. I certainly understood that.
We started seeing more of Mr Man again. She had forgiven him, truth is, I hadn’t. I struggled.
But I must applaud the guy for effort, he tried. I don’t know if he was buying her forgiveness or not but after closing a major deal in UK, Mr Man gave my friend a cheque so she could start her own business. It was her dream and she was delighted. My issues with Mr Man aside, that man was her biggest cheerleader, he encouraged her to dream big and he didn’t mind footing the bill for all her grand ideas.
On the eve of her twenty-first birthday, he showed up at our residential house with a diamond ring, to which she reacted with shock, joy and tears. We weren’t sure if it was an engagement ring or not but it seemed as though he was promising her something eternal. He even had the ring engraved, “Forever mine.” That night, the past was forgiven. It was the most romantic thing any of us had ever seen in real life, my friend was the envy of us all. A few hours later (on her actual birthday), we waited for four hours for him to pick us up after her birthday celebration but he didn’t show up. She called but his phone went unanswered for all four hours. He later sent an apology message and explained that the wife had invited family members over and allowed him no access to his phone. My friend cried herself to sleep that birthday.
(Side note: We also suspect that the wife knew very well that it was my friend’s birthday that day and she had no intention of letting her husband go to celebrate with his girlfriend).
It’s funny writing about it all now but we vowed not to speak to him again, but we did.
Mr Man had no problem with throwing money at his problem, and most of the time it worked. He would show up with flowers, jewelry, food and expensive gifts. But what she really wanted was a lifetime with him, which he could not offer her. But he knew what to say to make her stay; just when she thought she was done with him, he would mention how he wanted to build her a home and have a life with her and just like that, she would be back in his arms. It took me a long time to understand why she always fell for that same old li(n)e. But when I discovered how she grew up, I understood. She was yearning for a family she never had.
After each massive fight, he would say how he wanted a child with her; he knew this was still a sore area for her, she still harbored feelings of guilt and regret about the abortion. At the mention of a possible future for her and Mr Man, my friend would be back in his arms. All his promises fed my friend’s hope, but at the same time, they messed up her mind, and her heart.
We could not wait for the holidays to be over that summer so we could graduate. My friend and I planned every detail of our graduation; our outfits, our hair, and of course, our goodbye date at our residential house.
When the day finally came, we met a few hours early in the school premises so we could take a stroll to our soon-to-be old rooms. We hadn’t seen each other in a month, there was so much to say! I went first. My life was a mess at the time; my relationship with my family was at an all-time low; my future in the industry seemed bleak as I was struggling to find an internship and I had made a decision to move out of home in pursuit of better opportunities in Johannesburg. I was scared, I felt intimidated and worst of all, I felt alone. I was struggling to reach out to my parents, and that put a strain on me; I was an emotional mess. I remember my friend squeezing my hand and whispering, “It’s going to be okay.” It was the darkest season of my life.
And then it was her turn. Her business was doing really well, and with the support of Mr Man, she had managed to find nice premises to operate from. She had three staff members who reported to her, she was someone’s boss, we giggled in disbelief.
My friend had always been focused when it came to her work and I commended her for her work ethic. Before we knew it, we were out of time and we had to rush to the graduation hall before the ceremony began. Right before we entered the graduation hall, she dropped a bomb.
“Nono,” it was as though she was had never said my name before.
“Yes?” I replied.
I froze as she whispered the secret in my ear.
Mr Man was leaving his wife.
For more, order your copy of Nono Cele’s book titled Behind The Scenes by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
A big thank you to everyone who has supported my work and shared my writing on various social media platforms. Wishing you a prosperous 2016, a year of great exploits! Dare to be more.
Love and light,