Suzie is quite simply the loveliest girl in the neighbourhood. I gave up trying to deny it the day I spoke with her up close. And that pristine beauty of hers did things to my nervous system that I had not imagined possible. I remember glancing around as she approached, partly to ascertain that it was I she intended to speak to, and also in search of a plausible place to run away to should it prove to be too much. My worries were realised almost as soon as she flashed a dazzling smile and proffered a greeting, which was lost on me entirely. The path from my ears to my brain must have been under serious duress. Her eyes were like brilliant orbs that shone with malice, or at the very least mischief. And then I heard what she was saying…
I gaped in disbelief, certain by now that I was dreaming. But before I could further my reaction, Suzie’s hand had closed around mine, and she was leading me away. I managed a backward glance, but there was no one around to witness my kidnapping. And then we were dodging goats and sheep as we made our way into a compound surrounded by menacing hedges. Instinctively, my feet dug into the ground. Swivelling around, Suzie gave me a reassuring smile.
“Don’t worry. The old man is not home.”
And then she was dragging me away again, though I was anything but reassured. She kicked the frail wooden door open and pulled me in after her. As soon as the door shut behind her, she descended on me, showering me with dizzying kisses. At first, I was too stunned to respond. And then certain body parts reminded me that I was, after all, a teenager, and the enthusiasm with which I rose to the occasion surprised even me. Suzie giggled softly, and then launched a vicious attack on my clothes. Within seconds, she had rendered me helplessly nude, and her own clothes were lying in a heap on the ground. Like most of the village girls, she wore nothing under her skirt and blouse. But maybe she had her own reasons-inconvenience, perhaps, rather than discomfort… I was in no position to make further observations.
Then we were writhing and coiling in passionate abandon, and Suzie was making utterances that would shame even the morally impaired. I relished the way she held me, as though nothing existed for her outside my embrace, and the world had stopped revolving around us. I allowed her fragrance to possess me wholly and fill me to the core, and nothing had ever felt as good for me as her skin on mine, her lips brushing lightly over me, and her legs locking tightly behind me. As of that moment, nothing mattered but me and Suzie, and it seemed impossible to believe that we had never spoken before that day. For me, that became the experience by which all others in my life would be judged and found wanting.
When I finally untangled myself from her and staggered home, there was one thought in my mind, and one thought only. I was completely and irrevocably in love. What had happened seemed so unreal, and yet the memory was etched indelibly in my mind. And so, for days, I walked around in a trance, reliving that wonderful day over and over again. Occasionally I would look around in hopes of seeing Suzie again, but she seemed to have vanished off the face of the earth. It was only until a whole week had passed that I began to worry. But by then, I had something else to worry about; something incredibly disturbing. According to the village doctor, the irritation I had been experiencing was a sign-a sure sign-that my manhood was eventually going to fall off.
That was when they came. I had been sitting on our veranda with my grandfather, wondering how to begin explaining my predicament to him, and whether there was a translation for `sexually transmitted infection’ in our vernacular. Suddenly the gate had been pushed aside, and an old man was sweeping purposefully into the compound. I would not have recognised him had I not seen Suzie trailing timidly behind him. My pulse quickened at once, and before logic could catch up, my mind had already arrived at the phrase `hand in marriage’. And then I saw the distended belly, and my heart stopped beating completely. By then they had arrived at the house, and I knew I was dead even before Suzie’s father spoke.
“Is this him?” he asked turning to face his daughter. I had not noticed it earlier, but Suzie looked drawn and miserable. Her crimson eyes darted once to me, and then back to her father, who she gave a clear nod. The old man moved so fast he seemed inhuman. In two deft movements, he had pinned me to the ground and unfurled a hitherto unseen whip. That must have been when my grandfather realised what was happening.
“Mr Wanaka! Is it not more reasonable to explain yourself first?”
That must be how it feels to be in court. Mr. Wanaka quickly skimmed over the details, stating quite categorically that I had disgraced his daughter, and with her his reputation, and that he intended first to whip some sense into me, then ensure that I married his daughter. Such was the old way. I managed a glance at Suzie, but she was deliberately avoiding my gaze. The rest of the conversation was a blur. Somehow, my grandfather talked Mr. Wanaka out of using his whip, but the man was adamant about the issue of marriage. He would accept nothing short of fifteen cows.
That evening was extremely unpleasant for me. Usually, I can handle admonishment, but grandfather never said a word to me. He just regarded me with a hurt expression, and that in itself was worse than whipping. That was when the reality sunk in. I had gotten a girl pregnant. At the back of my mind, perhaps, I questioned the reality of the situation. It had only been a little over a week since I had been with Suzie. Even though I knew absolutely nothing about pregnancy, it seemed unlikely that Suzie could be that far along. I suppose there’s a part of me that liked the idea of marrying her. After all, I had always loved her.
And so I ignored the rumours and the salty looks that accompanied me wherever I went. My grandfather grumbled, but he did his best to avail the bride price. It cost him most of his land, and all his pride, but he did it, and when he finally resumed communication with me, he told me that someday I would know what it meant to be responsible for someone else’s mistakes. His words came true sooner than I expected.
When it was finally time for Suzie to deliver her baby, the truth became immediately apparent. The baby was fair skinned. And despite my faith in the superiority of my genes, even I couldn’t argue otherwise. That baby wasn’t mine. From there, it was almost too easy to track down the real culprit; some Indian shopkeeper, who fled before anyone could get to him. It was far more difficult to accept what Suzie had done to me.
Suzie is, and has always been, the loveliest girl in the village. And even though I loathe her for what she did, it will always be true that she was my first, in every sense of the word. My first true love, my first heartbreak, my first….and she gave me my very first venereal disease. As they say, no one ever forgets their first.