Joyce, my senior sister got married to Idris just a year after she completed the university. Idris worked at where my sister had her national service. As days passed, they found themselves in love with each other. They wasted no time together. They got married just after a year of being in a relationship.
The only time I saw Idris was during their wedding day. I traveled to South Africa two months after their wedding and never heard from them often. I had my life to live and living in a foreign land has a way of drawing you away from petty talks with your family. But I heard their marriage was good. Joyce was joyful to have found a husband like Idris and they both had nothing to complained about.
The only problem that came their way was childlessness. Four years after being married, Joyce couldn’t conceive. From what I heard, Idris didn’t see any problem with that but Joyce was beating herself every day for not being able to conceive. They consulted experts, nothing was found wrong with any of them. “Everything is alright” the doctors kept telling them. Everything was alright but they couldn’t conceive.
That was the first worry my sister had to contend with. She was married to a good man and felt obliged to delight him with a child. But she couldn’t. During their fifth year together as a couple, doctors detected a lump in my sister’s breast which they later found to be cancer. Doctors gave them hope. They told Joyce that the cancer was in the early stages so they could do something about it.
They did something about it but somehow, the cancer found another root to spread. It became terminal and Joyce’s day on earth became numbered. During that period, I called her almost every day trying to give her hope. Sometimes I would speak with her until she fell asleep. Idris would get the phone and we would continue talking. “Your sister’s health is getting worse every passing day and the worse part is, she’d given up on herself,” Idris told me one day. I asked him how long she had left and he told me; “not too long.”
Idris called me in September 2010 to tell me my sister couldn’t make it to the next day. I cried and sob all day. I knew it was coming but somehow I couldn’t believe she had to go so soon. She was only 33 and had lots of life ahead of her.
I came to Ghana a week later and began preparation for her funeral. Idris and I had the whole funeral on our shoulders and wanted the best for Joyce. My sister’s funeral brought me closer to Idris and I realized his kind heart and his determination to make things perfect. My sister was finally laid to rest and Idris found a way to become part of my family.
He would come home after work to greet my parent and strike a very long conversation with them till it’s late. Most night, I would be the one to walk him to his car and said the final goodbyes. The next day, he would call the house and ask how everyone was doing and some weekends we would hang out at his favorite restaurant and watch movies at other times.
I sensed something brewing between us. I wasn’t so sure what it was. I wasn’t sure if he was having same feelings for me. I told myself; “This can’t happen. He’s my sister’s husband for Christ’s sake.” I knew where my feeling was going but I tried talking myself out of it till one night he made it obvious that he was feeling same. We were both embarrassed. We talked about Joyce and asked if she’ll be pleased with us. Somedays we said; “Yes, she’ll be pleased.” Other days we were very sure Joyce would be turning in her grace if she got to know what was happening between us.
We stalled. We were not sure of what to do. We took our time but our feelings got stronger. One evening, while in his house watching a movie, he drew closer to me and whispered; “It’s not my fault. You resemble your sister.” He pressed his lips to mine and I took it in. We kissed. We spent the night together and that was when we had our first sex. We had no regret afterward. I felt no guilt. It’s not as though I was snatching Idris from my sister. She’s dead and the living has to find a way of living life the best way.
Idris needed a woman. It’s been a year since we buried my sister and it’s been two months since the day we first kissed. We didn’t know what to do next. We were scared to think about the future of our relationship. Are we going to keep it in the dark forever?
We hatched a plan…
Idris came over to the house one night after work to talk it over with my mother. We already knew what her answer would be but we wanted to give it a try. I stood outside eavesdropping on their conversation. Idris told my mom; “Francisca has been a lot of help to me ever since she came. She’s been more than a wife to me, is there a way I could officially make her my wife?”
My mum simply shook her head; “No way,” she said. “Our culture doesn’t allow that.” And then my mom dropped a line that caught Idris off guard. She said; “Whatever is going on between you two should stop before it gets out of hand. People like to talk around here. Don’t give them the chance to.”
So she knew or she suspected there was something going on and she said nothing about it. When Idris left, I picked the conversation from where Idris left it. I told my mom there should be a way. I told her how much I wanted to be with Idris and how good a man he was. My mom only talked about traditions and the need to keep it well. She was more worried about what people would say than my happiness with a man I wanted to live with.
My sister is resting in peace but I can’t live in peace with someone because he was once with my sister. Who made these rules?
Idris broached the topic with his family and they didn’t treat it kindly at all. The father simply told him; “Look elsewhere. The lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice.” We were devastated but there was little we could do. His family won’t accept us and my family doesn’t want to go against culture.
The right thing to do was for both of us to go our separate ways. We tried but we couldn’t stay apart for long. We stayed apart for awhile and came back together again. We could have loved for all to see but society says no. Society doesn’t approve our kind of love so for all the years we’ve been in love till now, we have to love undercover.
–Story by Francisca Enin.