Telephone – A Short Story

By | 20-Aug-2020

“Hello,” said Geoffrey. “Who?…I don’t know who Lucy is…No, this is my number, not Lucy’s.”

Miriam was a bit unhappy. She was feeling butterflies in her stomach. She remained silent the rest of the ride home.
Geoffrey noticed the drop in the levels of conversation, but he did not ask Miriam about it.
When they were newly married, he used to ask when she was unexpectedly quiet.
“You’re quiet; what’s wrong?” he would say.
“Nothing” was the usual answer.
Later, he would normally find out that it wasn’t nothing.
That was around seven years ago. Nowadays, he let her be. If and when she felt like saying what was upsetting her, she would.
If she didn’t, too bad.
It wasn’t that he didn’t care. It was just that in Geoffrey’s opinion, an adult should be able to express themselves without being begged, and he was tired of trying to extract answers from his wife.

So they drove home in silence, with only the radio interrupting the silence.

*

The next day, Miriam called her best friend, Susan. Well, Miriam didn’t really consider Susan her best friend, but when either of them had something major to discuss, she usually called the other. So in effect they were best friends, or at least good friends.
Susan answered on the first ring.
“Hi.”
“Hi. Umeshika simu haraka.”
“Yes, I was reading some text so it was in my hand.”
“How are you?”
“I’m good. Just dropped the boys off at school so I was about to start some errands.”
“I’m also on lunch break.”
“Now, said Miriam, with a change of tone that indicated that she was launching into the purpose of the call. She paused
“What is it?” said her friend, sensing a heavy matter was about to be dropped.
“I don’t know if Geoffrey is having something?”
“Something such as? He is sick?”
“No, not sick. Something with someone.”
“Oh nooo! What makes you think that?”
“A number of times now, he gets phone calls and he keeps saying ‘This is not Lucy’s phone.’ Like it’s a wrong number. I don’t know if that is a code to mean that I am around so he can’t talk.”
“Oh noooo!”
“I just don’t know.”
Susan paused for a moment then asked “How are things with you guys? Are you having issues?”
“Well, not really. I thought things were fine, though of late we don’t seem to be talking much.”
“And you never know what the other person is thinking,” Susan added.
“Yeah.”
“How long has this been going on?”
“I don’t know. Maybe a month or more. At first I wasn’t really paying attention, then I noticed the name Lucy kept coming up.”
“Okay. And how long have you guys not been talking?”
“Maybe the same time period. In fact, now that you ask, maybe we have not been talking because I have been feeling uncomfortable about this whole thing.”
“Yeah.”
There was a moment of silence as each woman thought about the situation.
“But do you really think Geoffrey would be … well … having … an affair?”
“To be honest, I wouldn’t have thought so, but wrong number every week and the same Lucy? I don’t know.”
“Have you heard the caller’s voice?”
“One time I heard and it sounded like a woman.”
Another pause.
“Do you know if the caller’s number is saved in his phone?” Susan was in full investigative mode.
“Jana I looked at his call log and the call that came in around the time he spoke about Lucy was from an unsaved number.”
“I hear men save chicks’ names as ‘Kamau wa Nyama,’ ‘Odhis Fundi’ and things like those.”
They both laughed a bit.
“No, there was no Odhis Fundi. At least I didn’t see any.”
“Miriam, I suggest instead of worrying, just ask him who Lucy is. Then we can deal with things out in the open.”
Miriam sighed. She felt like crying.
“Okay,” she said instead.

*

Image by Momentmal from Pixabay

Geoffrey came home one evening and found that Miriam was in the kitchen.
The children were playing outside.
“I was making some tea,” said Miriam. “Would you like some?”
“Sure. Thanks.” He put aside his bag and sat on a sofa facing the TV.
Miriam brought the tea to the living room and handed Geoffrey his cup.
Thanks, he said again as he took the cup.
Miriam sat on a sofa that was at a right angle to his, so that she faced him diagonally.

“Now,” Miriam opened the subject directly. “Who is Lucy?”
“Lucy?”
“Yes.”
“Lucy who? Or Lucy of where?”
“That is what I’m asking you.”
“I mean give me a context. There are many Lucys – from Church, I knew one in campus…”
Miriam looked at him, her temper rising, but he seemed not to be joking or trying to be evasive, so she decided to remain calm and to explain.
“You have been getting calls and saying this is not Lucy’s phone.”
“Oh.” said Geoffrey. “Yes, all these people keep calling and asking for Lucy. It’s annoying!”
Miriam didn’t say anything for a moment. Then she said. “Really?”
Geoffrey looked at her for a few seconds, thinking.
“Yes, of course it’s annoying.” He looked at her some more. “You know who she is?”
“No.”
Geoffrey thought some more then he realised what was going on.
“You think I know who she is?”
“Do you?”
“I’ve told you I don’t know!”
“You didn’t really say that.”
Geoffrey paused to recollect the previous part of the conversation.
“Okay. I don’t know who Lucy is.”
They looked at each other for some seconds.
“You think she is someone Im seeing,” said Geoffrey. It wasn’t really a question.
“Are you seeing someone?” Miriam asked, broadening the possibilities beyond just Lucy.
“No,” said Geoffrey calmly.
During the earlier years of their marriage, Geoffrey would probably have been livid to be even asked such a question. Life has a way of tempering our expectations, he thought.
Miriam did not say anything more. She got up and went to join the househelp in fixing supper.

There wasn’t much talk that evening, except with the children.

*

The next Saturday, they were going for a wedding. They were a bit late and Miriam was driving because she often got unusually agitated and irritable with Geoffrey’s driving when they were late. The children were chatting in the back and pointing out things outside as they drove by.
Geoffrey was scrolling through Facebook on his phone.
The phone rang. Unsaved number.
Geoffrey debated whether he should answer it or not. If he does, the caller might ask for Lucy and that might start some trouble. If he doesn’t, he will appear guilty, like he has something to hide.
He received the call. Liwe liwalo.
“Hello?”
“Hello. Lucy?”
Does my voice sound like a Lucy to you? Geoffrey thought but he did not say it.
Instead, he said “This is not Lucy’s number. Please. Stop. Calling. This. Number!”
From the driver’s seat. Miriam glanced at him but said nothing.

At the wedding, after the church service, Miriam looked for Susan, who had said she would also be at the wedding.
After very brief greetings, Miriam went straight to the issue.
“I asked Geoffrey about Lucy and he said he doesn’t know who she is. I also asked him if he was seeing someone and he said no.”
“Do you believe him?”
“Sort of,” said Miriam. “As we were driving here, he received another call. The person asked for Lucy and he told the person not to call his number any more. He seemed a bit angry.”
Susan was silent for a moment then she said “It’s a bit convenient, eh?”
“I thought so too,” said Miriam. “Just after I asked him about it he is now telling off a caller in my presence?”
“Yeah,” said Susan. “And telling the person off can only work if it is one person who keeps calling. So now?”
“I really don’t know, Susan. I really don’t know.”

*

Geoffrey was at work when he received yet another phone call from a number that he did not have in his phone.
“Hello?”
“Hello,” said a lady’s voice.
Geoffrey and the caller talked for some minutes.
He was smiling when the call ended.

*

Susan’s phone rang. It was Miriam.
She snatched it up.
“Hello?”
“Susan!” Miriam sounded like she was breathing fast. Susan felt her heart starting to beat faster.
“Yes, Miriam.”
“I know who Lucy is!”
“Oh! Who is she?”
“She called me!”
“She did?!”
“Yes. I got a call from a strange number.”
“Ehe! Woi! I am panicking. Are you okay?”
“I’m okay. You just listen.”
“I’ll try. Ehe?”
“I picked and said ‘Hello.’ She said ‘Hello. Please don’t hang up.’
Then she said ‘This is Lucy.’
Wueh! I just sat down.”
“Even me I am now sitting down,” said Susan.
“She said ‘I know I may have caused some trouble in your house.’
I didn’t even know what to say.
She said, ‘Your husband asked me to call you.’
Haki I thought ‘I’m being left! I’m being left! Will we fight over the kids?’”
Ehe? Haki my heart is beating!” said Susan.
“Then she said, ‘There is nothing going on. The number that your husband has used to be mine. Si he got it recently? I’m a hairdresser and my customers have that number so they call looking for me. Haki pole. I asked your husband to give the customers my new number.’”

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