3. Taken For Granted

I think some old song by Cherish, ‘Unappreciated’, was the inspiration for this one…

I’d been the serious type all my life. I was never one who took my studies and work lightly if something needed to be done, I’d ensure I did it, and did it well. And I was a serious introvert. Not that I didn’t have time for friends and stuff like that, but eight out of ten times, I’d choose work over a party or something like that. That was how I was.

So I was in my office in Allianz Insurance, when one of my colleagues invited me to a little get-together he was having over the weekend. He really prepared himself to get me to go, because every little excuse I gave, he countered very easily. Within ten minutes, I gave up and agreed to go.

The get-together, taking place at his residence, was on Saturday afternoon. Getting there, I saw a number of friends and started to loosen up. This wasn’t so bad, after all. Laughing with my colleagues and friends was a soothing thing, breaking up tension and stuff. Then my eyes fell on one young lady around. She kept smiling and waving at me.

She looked so familiar, but I couldn’t quite remember her. So I stepped up to her, and said, “Hi.” She said, “Hey, Ebbs, what’s up? I wasn’t expecting you here. It’s been ages since I saw you.”

What she called me triggered my memory. It was Sara Eshun, that girl every boy had had a crush on back in J.S.S.! What a pleasant surprise. We talked at length and exchanged contacts afterwards. Something sweet came out of crawling out of my shell after all.

Sara and I kept in touch constantly, her calling during work, I taking her out for lunch, that sort of thing. This went on for about a year, and at a point in time, I realized I thought about her a lot, I often spoke of her to my other colleagues… it became obvious I was falling for her.

So I proposed. And she accepted. I was one happy fella that day. Being one of the few boys who had been infatuated with her back in the day, my daydreams were now a reality.

Sara moved into my house two months after my proposal. She was the most wonderful lady a man could have by his side. Even though she had her own job, which kept her busy a lot, she always had time. Sara would always have my food ready whenever I came back from work. She always had a smile to welcome me. She was always ready to show me love, whatever mood I found myself in.

She was everything a guy could ever want and need in a girlfriend and a potential wife.

You know where it all went wrong?

I didn’t show any appreciation.

I can’t count the number of times I got home and told Sara I wasn’t hungry, failing to see how the food had been prepared with TLC. Whenever Sara welcomed me with a big smile and sweet words, I just nodded, or gave her a quick, unemotional peck on the forehead. Whenever she sat down to talk to me, I just dozed off.

Once I heard her cell phone ring. The ring tone was “Unappreciated” by Cherish, but it never clicked in my brain.

My belief was that Sara was happy with our relationship, because I was well-paid, thus enabling me to splash the cash on her whenever I thought it necessary. I took her out a couple of times to plush, expensive restaurants, but then, all I talked about was stuff like my work, politics and sports, which were of little interest to her. I mean, I spent money on her! Cars, jewellery, the like. So all of that convinced me Sara couldn’t be happier with me.

How wrong I was.

Three years passed, and nothing changed. I was still my dry and unappreciative self. Sara, amazingly, was still by my side. Despite the way I showed little concern for her emotional needs, she kept going by my side. She stayed, hoping I would somehow change, because she loved me so much.

8th November. I received great news from my boss. I was getting a promotion! Now this was what I had been working had for since I had joined the company four years ago. My head was spinning with joy, and I couldn’t wait to tell Sara the good news. Now I could save up enough for us to take a vacation to the United Arab Emirates.

I got home early, around six-fifteen, and met Sara just as she was about to start cooking. I ran and lifted her in my arms. “Baby, I’ve got wonderful news for you!”

Putting her down, she looked a little excited. “What is it, dear?”

“Sara, you wouldn’t believe this: I was called by my boss today, and he told me this: I’m going to get a promotion!” I waited for the excited scream and the big hug from her.

Didn’t happen. Instead, she muttered, “That’s great, Ebo. Congrats,” and turned to the stove.

I was furious. To think I’d left the office so early, just to hear an icy congratulation message from Sara of all people. “That’s great. Congrats? Sara, is that all you can say? This is my job I’m talking about here. I thought I’d get a louder ‘congrats’ and a hug, at least? I can’t believe you’re being so insensitive.”

Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

That last word I used really struck a nerve. She dropped the knife she was holding, and slowly turned to face me. “Me? Insensitive? That’s an interesting thing to say, considering you’re the one who doesn’t show a tint of appreciation in this house.”

“What are you…”

“Oh, cut the crap, Ebo!” I had just set off a time bomb that had been kept secret for three good years. “Who’s more insensitive than you? How many times have you said a simple ‘thank you’ for the food I waste my time preparing for you? How many times have you sat down to talk with me, real talk, not the politics and stuff, because you know they don’t interest me? How many times have you kissed me? Ebo, if there’s anyone who shows no appreciation, it’s you, you, and YOU!”

Already annoyed, I countered, claiming the stuff I bought for her was enough. How many ladies could boast of the type of things I bought for her? “I work my ass off everyday to make you the happiest girl in the world, and now you’re turning around to say I don’t appreciate you?”

Things started to get emotional. Sara started screaming at me. “Do you think I needed all that stuff you buy me? I don’t need it, Ebo, I don’t need it! What I want is your love! Your love! For three years, I’ve stayed by your side, praying for the day you’ll come home and give me a real kiss, eat my food, and talk with me and make me feel like I really do matter to you. Do you have any idea how many times my family and friends have insulted me for not leaving you? I should have… Ebo,” she paused, wiping her tears, “do you know what day it is?”

I shrugged, taken aback by that question. “I don’t know where that’s coming from, but isn’t it Wednesday? Why, is there something about today that’s so special?”

“MY GOD, EBO, I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU!” Sara wailed, the tears running faster down her face. “Today is the third anniversary of our first kiss! That’s just it! You don’t care about me! You don’t even treasure our love!” She screamed unhappily at me, then threw down the cutlery and stormed out.

I was pissed. How could she show such ingratitude to me? After all I did for her, and all I was going to do for her, this is what I got in return. How irritating! What was supposed to be a great announcement and a little celebration had turned into a fight. I looked outside. She had opened the gate, and was backing out with her car. I yelled some obscenities to her, then walked out of the kitchen. What a selfish woman. I got out my laptop and got to work.

Forty-five minutes into my work, and sleep took over.

9:00 pm. I got a call. Sara was in the hospital. She had run into a broken-down truck.

Thirty minutes later, and I was rushing to Lister Hospital, worried as hell. As I drove, all I hoped was that she’d be okay.

I got there. The doctor told me her condition was really bad. She was in intensive care, but had requested to see me should I come. So I was allowed to see her.

She looked in bad shape as I entered, but she was awake. She smiled at me as I dragged a chair towards her bed. I took her hand and kissed it. “What happened, honey?”

She told me of what happened. Apparently, the truck, as we all know happens in Ghana all the time, broke down on the road, but the idiot driver didn’t put any signal there to indicate. So she drove furiously, and by the time she realized there was a stationary vehicle around, it was too late.

As she lay on the bed, speaking to me, it hit me like a golf club across the forehead. For the first time in three years, I really took notice of how beautiful she was. I saw the beauty in her eyes, the loveliness of her rather weak smile. For the first time in ages, I felt a burn within me looking at her. That made me realize how right she had been.

I had deceived myself thinking I was making her happy. I didn’t show any concern. I didn’t even act like I loved her. My real love was my work. At that moment, I felt so ashamed. I had this wonderful woman by my side, and I never showed a tint of appreciation.

Tears in my eyes, I whispered to her, “Sara, I’m sorry. You were right. I’ve been a selfish, insensitive, unappreciative bastard. I’m so, so sorry. I haven’t been the man you wanted to be with. All I’ve done is put my work above you. But all that’s going to change. I promise… I love you, Sara.”

Tears formed in her eyes. “I love you too, Ebo.”

I moved towards her, ready to give her a real kiss. Not the dull, unloving type I’d given her for three years.

But the doctor came in and said it was time for me to leave, so she could rest and recover.

So I left, telling her I loved her, and I’d be back to see her tomorrow.

As I drove back home, I swore to myself that things would change for the better when she got back. This time round, I’d always be ready to listen to her whenever she wanted to talk. I’d tell her I loved her a dozen times. Hmm, the list of things I vowed to do was endless.

At home, I could feel it. Something special was missing. I knew what it was, but no worries, she’d be back in a few days, and we would start a new life together. A life of mutual respect, love and appreciation.

4:52 am. My phone woke me up. Sleepily, I reached for it and answered.

It was the doctor taking care of Sara.

Some serious complications had occurred later that evening. Very serious complications. The doctor and his team had had to work hard to get her condition a little stable. But it had only worsened. They had done all they could. They worked as hard as possible, but it just wasn’t enough.

She was dead.

I thought it was either a dream, or the doctor had called a wrong number. But he knew my name, and it was undoubtedly Sara’s name he had mentioned as well. I couldn’t believe it.

For three years, she had put up with my indifference, tolerated my icy attitude towards her. For three years, she had stayed with me even though I treated her worse than one could treat a dog. For three years, she had ignored her family and friends. All because of love.

And I, a selfish, heartless, cold bastard, had taken her love for granted.

I cried. I wept. I wailed. I screamed. Nothing and nobody could console me at that moment. My Sara was gone forever, and my dreams the previous night of treating her like the woman I loved would forever remain dreams.

I wasn’t seen at my workplace for about a fortnight. Colleagues called, my boss called, I didn’t care. Work seemed unattractive to me now. That promotion of mine even seemed bogus to me. Sara had been far more important than all that, yet I never even saw it.

It’s a nightmare I’ll never, ever wake up from. The wonder-woman given to me is six feet under now, and all I have is wishes and regrets. Wishes that I had treated her right, made her truly happy. Regrets that I denied her of my love and made her feel like a pair of worn-out shoes.

It’s 5:30 pm, and I’m in the Osu Cemetery, sitting in front of her tomb. As I continue to weep bitterly and wish in vain, please, I beg you, never take your lover for granted. Or loved ones, for that matter. Never fail to let them know you love them. Don’t be like me, who never got the chance to show my Sara I really did love her, much less say goodbye.

Sara, I’m so, so sorry I couldn’t make it up to you before you left me. My life is a mess without you. Forgive me, my love.’ (A tear-stained note left on Sara’s tomb)

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