‘I Was Wondering…Could You Hold Me Now?’ (A Valentine’s Day Tale, Part II)

DISCLAIMER: Like most things involving love, this is a work of fiction.

Brenda set the living room coffee table with a practiced ease that made her wistful. She had planned this dinner for two for weeks, down to every detail. She had even gotten her best friend to come over for a test – run and Harriet agreed with her: everything, from the food, to the music, to the dress she had decided she was going to wear, was perfect.

Harriet of course was now just a memory. Two days ago she had shot herself, the bullet blowing out the back of her head in a spatter of brain and bone that was grim and final. Brenda wasn’t surprised. Heck, they had planned it together, and Brenda didn’t really blame her. Being alone at a time like this was unimaginable. She had her David; Harriet was a divorcee of two years and knowing what was coming and living through it alone just didn’t seem like an option.

So they had planned it over drinks (gin and tonic with lemon slices and ice cubes) in Harriet’s kitchen one evening, a week before she actually did it .

The memory of her last evening with her best friend engulfed her: sipping from her glass, savoring the drink (We do so much more savoring these days, she thought idly), putting her glass down neatly on one of the wooden coasters on Harriet’s kitchen counter and saying matter-of-factly:

‘Just make sure you hold the gun against the soft part of the inner pallet of your mouth. That way, you will have a 100% chance of success.’

Harriet had stifled a giggle: ‘You are a pre-primary school teacher. Where did you pick that ole nugget up from?’
Brenda had grinned back at her best friend. ‘I saw it on TV.’

Harriet had shrugged, a gesture she made seem somehow graceful: ‘It will be just like giving head to Optimus Prime.’
They had laughed, a hysterical tone clouding the sound of it, two 30 year-olds trying to come to grips with the inevitable.

Now the evening sunset lit up Brenda’s living room like a real estate TV ad, orange shafts of light alternating with a purple haze, lighting up the wine globes and giving it a surreal otherworldly feel. It’s like the sun knew what was going to happen and planned to put on a grand show. And because of what had happened over the last two days, it could.

She could hear David singing in the shower, an off-key edition of Frank Sinatra’s My Way that was hilarious and awful at the same time. She hoped he would hurry; the last communication had said the final event would take place at exactly 7.30pm, Valentine’s Day. She wanted him seated here with her when it happened. It was already 6.00pm.

She was already dressed herself, a little black number that she knew David would love, with matching heels (and black panty hose). Under all this she was wearing a matching lingerie set that was burgundy red and made of lace. If they had time, maybe he would get to take it off.

She heard the bathroom door open and slam shut; David was done with his shower. He had now switched to Under My Feet, another Sinatra classic and she smiled inwardly. When David was bopping his way through material from the Chairman of the Board, you knew he was in a good mood. He had come to terms with what was happening with stoic ease, which made her love him more.

He would dress fast and probably be ready in less than 10 minutes, she knew, so she hurried with the final touches of their Valentine’s Day homemade dinner: a case of beer for him, which had been in a bucket of cold water for an hour or so, and a bottle of Mateus Red for her. The power was out, so it wouldn’t be chilled, but it would do in a pinch. Everything was out anyway, the internet and TV going off 48 hours before in a blaze of glory. She found she didn’t miss them, and was just glad the water was still running.

She was putting down the final dishes on the coffee table when David came out of the bedroom, bopping to his off-key version of Witchcraft, resplendent in black slacks, a black silk shirt and a black smoking jacket. The thought, I could eat that any ole time, run through her mind unbidden and her face felt flushed.

It was now 6.12pm.

He whistled at the dinner she had laid out: a vegetarian menu for her (Escabeche vegetable salad, Ciroc tomato soup, vegetable dumplings in tomato coriander sauce and a dessert of Amarula chocolate mousse) and a Chicken Supreme with ham, bacon and cheese for him.

‘Woah! Bren…’

He was speechless, and she was glad. They had been married three years, a young gorgeous couple with no kids or pets, him a successful chef with his own four star restaurant, her a lawyer with a high rise firm that specialized in fraud cases, as unlikely a pair as possible, but she knew things about him, and when he was speechless, it was about the highest compliment he could offer.

He popped open the Mateus, filled her up her wine glass (it was one of those fancy fat bottomed wine glasses that he used to jokingly call ‘her Fat Boy’, which, everything considered, was about as ironic as life can get) before pulling the tab on one of his beer cans.

They ate in a quiet comfortable silence, and she was surprised she was hungry. They also ate fast; they wanted to be done before it happened.

It was now 6.45pm.

They sat watching the bizarre sunset, her smoking a cigarette, him sipping at a beer can, probably his 5th. He had always drunk fast.

She watched a ring of smoke float up to the ceiling, and then chased an arrow of smoke after it; it sailed through neatly.

David grinned. ‘Love it when you do that.’

She turned to him, her eyes dark, smirking. ‘You love lots of things I do…’

He laughed aloud at that. ‘Come here.’

She moved up against him, and he kissed her. He was insanely kinky and made her want to do things she had never imagined, but it was the way his kissed that always got her.

‘Always like it’s the first time.’ Her breath was short and jerky.

He grinned against her mouth in the gathering dark, saying nothing.

She reached for the wine glass while holding on to his hand with her left, sat back and watched the sunset.

It was now 7.15pm. Time was short, and they both knew it.

‘Sometimes I really hate him, the very idea of him.’ She said it with an edge to her voice that had the feel of rusted razor blades.

David pressed against her palm. ‘I know. But we don’t need that now. He’s gone, and what’s done is done.’
He sighed. ‘I am just glad to be rid of him. That orange hair was getting to me.’

Brenda laughed, like she knew he had wanted her to, but there were tears in her voice now.

‘But he didn’t need to do this. He just didn’t. We were going to be so happy…’

He made shushing noises, holding back, not reaching out for her, knowing she wasn’t ready yet.

Not yet.

‘We were happy, Bren. The last three years have been the happiest years of my life.’

She looked at him, her eyes reflecting the gold and purple sunset like liquid glass.

‘Really’?

It was now 7.25pm.

He grinned that crooked smile that had come to mean the world to her.

‘Really.’

She turned to face the French windows of the living room and the dying sunset.

‘I think I can hear it.’

He said nothing, only holding on to her hand and taking another sip at his beer can.

‘David…’

He turned away from contemplating the strange sunset and looked at her. She was ready.

And she asked him for the last time, a question she always asked him if she woke up from a bad dream, or after they had had fast furious absurdly sweaty sex, or if she was just having a bad day, a question she asked tentatively and sweetly each and every time in a little girl voice that made his heart ache.

‘I was wondering…could you hold me now?’

And he answered as he always did, reaching out for her and holding her against him, enveloping her in a polar bear hug as everything ended in a blinding flash of white.

At exactly 7.30pm, on 14th February, a fusillade of plutonium nuclear missiles with enough power to destroy it 1,000 times over hit the African continent, vaporizing everything in a flash of white and pure heat.

Prologue:

Reuters, November 10th: The People’s Republic of China has referred to the shooting down of 3 fighter plans by US F19s over Taiwan as an act of war and demanded for an apology from the United States of America after issuing President Donald Trump a 30 – Day ultimatum.

Chinese News Agency, December 10th: China Declares War against the United States of America.
UN News, December 24th: The UN General Assembly votes in favor of China’s stance towards the United States, with African countries all in support of the Chinese.

Reuters, December 25th: Terrorist attack in New York kills 25,000 people. Chemical and Biological weapons used. Syrian group claims responsibility.

Reuters, January 1st: President Donald Trump accuses Russia of abetting Syrian terrorists in attack on New York. ‘The United States does not have chemical or biological weapons. We will respond with what we do have.’

Reuters, January 10th: The United States and NATO Allies declare war against Russia.

Reuters, January 11th: The United States, almost as an afterthought, declares war on Syria.

CNN, January 15th: President Donald Trump likely to be impeached over the next 48 hours says Republican and Democratic coalition.

Reuters, January 16th: President Donald Trump dismisses speculation of possible impeachment as ‘Fake News.’

Reuters, January 17th: The United States and NATO allies launch nuclear missiles on Syria. ‘They have wiped the country off the map’ says the UN secretary General.

Chinese News Agency, January 19th: The People’s Republic of China launches ‘preemptive nuclear strikes’ against the United States of America. World War III begins.

Reuters, January 25th: President Donald Trump reported missing. Leaves cryptic message delivered via email to all African embassies: ‘Hello Africa, look out for your own little FAT gift from me on February 14th at exactly 7.30pm. Teach you to vote like fools!’

Reuters, January 30th: Everyone launches nuclear missiles, just for the sake of it. Europe, Asia, North and South America, Australia, and New Zealand go black.

Reuters, February 14th, automated report that no one is alive to read: U.S Space Program, following automated launch instructions, decimates African continent with nuclear weapons launched from space.

Epilogue:

At least once a year, I have a recurring nightmare about nuclear war that is ridiculously vivid. I think I first had it when I was 14. In this nightmare, I am standing in front of French windows and the sun is setting. There is a feeling of dread as I watch the sunset, a feeling that something is going to happen. Someone next to me (I never see the person but I hear their voice and the person is female, and I can somehow tell they are gorgeous) says ‘I think I can hear it coming.’

Then there’s a bright flash and I wake up, knowing I have left behind a mushroom cloud and a heat wave that decimates everything.

I always wanted to put this nightmare in words, but I just couldn’t figure out a story where it would work. Then I had a drink at Rider’s Lounge, Acacia Place on a Sunday afternoon and while looking over their Valentine’s Day menu, I could suddenly see the woman, and she had prepared a meal for the love of her life, and they were going to have this delicious meal, and watch the sunset and wait for the end. And with half the story in my head, inspired by that menu from Rider’s Lounge, I had my story.

I hope you like it. I find it hard to write about love (obviously) but I find it easy to share nightmares. This way, I got to do both.

P.S: Oh, and the food Brenda cooks on that last evening? That’s right off the menu at Rider’s Lounge, which you really should try – I KNOW good food, I can tell you that!

P.P.S: Some trivia for you: ‘Fat Boy’: The name of the plutonium nuclear missile that was dropped on the city of Nagasaki, Japan, in 1945 by the United States of America.

Written by Dennis Asiimwe

Dennis lives and works in Kampala as a communications consultant. He’s single because dating is a bit tedious in Uganda. He owns a marketing communications firm that develops radio, TV, and print ads and uses other media tools, and has an event management section. He also writes for the New Vision as a music critic and is a social critic with several magazines.

He owns a jazz outfit called Bonafide and plays jazz when he can find the bloody time. He loves dogs (German Shepherds) and is a major fan of Stephen King and Babyface.

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