The power of for­give­ness

Sne feels be­trayed when her best friend tricks her out of a job, but re­fus­ing to ac­cept her apol­ogy has un­ex­pected con­se­quences

DRUM - - Fiction -

IALWAYS thought for­giv­ing was a bit like apol­o­gis­ing and that be­ing the vic­tim would give me the power to con­trol the sit­u­a­tion. This was un­til my best friend broke my heart and left me with a sim­ple ques­tion – would I ever be able to for­give her? It hap­pened a few years ago af­ter we fin­ished high school. We were un­de­cided about what to study so we took a gap year to ex­plore our in­ter­ests be­fore we com­mit­ted to fur­ther ed­u­ca­tion.

We had so many things in com­mon and we loved each other’s com­pany – some­times we even fin­ished each other’s sen­tences. She was my other half.

Then, one day when I was check­ing my email, an ad­vert caught my eye. Who else was I go­ing to share it with other than my best friend? I ran to her house and knocked on her door, which she even­tu­ally opened with sleepy eyes.

“Mbali! Look at this ad,” I ex­claimed in ex­cite­ment.

She rubbed her big round eyes, took my phone and started to read aloud.

“We are look­ing for a young fe­male ma­tric­u­lant who is vi­brant, am­bi­tious and who has good com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills. Ap­ply now if you are in­ter­ested.”

“So, what do you think? I should ap­ply, right? I mean, I have all the qual­i­ties. I’m vi­brant, I’m am­bi­tious and smart as a bonus. And my English, yoh, it flows like a river!”

Mbali looked at me with doubt and said, “Sne, this isn’t for you.”

I was puz­zled. “What are you talk­ing

about, Mbali? Look at the salary, my friend, R15 000 plus a 13th cheque! Just for com­mu­ni­cat­ing with peo­ple and pro­mot­ing prod­ucts. I’m ap­ply­ing to­day!”

“Sne, these could be scam­mers – they’re ev­ery­where and they want young, beau­ti­ful girls like you. Haven’t you heard about hu­man traf­fick­ing? If I were you, I’d delete that email right now!”

I’d never seen my best friend so se­ri­ous about some­thing as she was that day. What she said made sense to me. I walked home slowly, con­vinc­ing my­self the ad was too good to be true. Be­fore I knew it, I’d pressed the delete but­ton and the email was no more.

Lit­tle did I know my sup­posed best friend had pressed the share but­ton and copied the ad from my phone to hers. She now had the email with the ap­pli­ca­tion de­tails and, just as I was delet­ing mine, she was ap­ply­ing be­hind my back.

THE news was bro­ken to me by her gogo, who made a big fuss of my friend in front of me. “Mbali, I’m so proud of you! You’ll now work for a big com­pany with ex­pen­sive prod­ucts. Don’t for­get to pave the way for your friend too once you’re set­tled.”

Mbali tried to stop her grand­mother from re­veal­ing her dirty se­cret but it was too late – I’d al­ready fig­ured out she’d stolen my job.

“How could you, Mbali? You con­vinced me not to ap­ply for this po­si­tion so you could take it in­stead. What sort of friend are you?”

I was fu­ri­ous and I stormed out of her house and didn’t speak to her again. I ig­nored her knock­ing at my door, I deleted her num­ber and blocked her on Face­book. When she threw a big party and in­vited me as a VIP, I didn’t show up.

The re­la­tion­ship be­tween our two fam­i­lies was also ru­ined – it was too awk­ward to con­tinue meet­ing when their daugh­ters wouldn’t speak to each other.

I have to ad­mit it was hard – my life wasn’t the same with­out my other half and find­ing a new friend was chal­leng­ing be­cause trust had just be­come a ma­jor is­sue for me.

Over the years I of­ten heard peo­ple talk­ing about how suc­cess­ful she was.

They gos­siped about the new car she was driv­ing, the clothes she was wear­ing and the fancy ren­o­va­tions she had planned for her home.

There were also ru­mours she’d put in an of­fer on a big house so she could live like a queen.

I wasn’t both­ered by the talk. I was fin­ish­ing my de­gree at uni­ver­sity, study­ing for a job that suited my abil­i­ties and that I was pas­sion­ate about.

She still tried to call me once in a while and sent me mes­sages say­ing how sorry she was about what she’d done.

She said she’ would never have risked our friend­ship if she’d re­alised the out­come of her ac­tions.

As for me, I thought the more guilt she felt the bet­ter. I could see I was up­set­ting her, but I didn’t re­alise I was be­ing neg­a­tively af­fected at the same time.

I was do­ing my fi­nal year of phys­io­ther­apy when I started ex­pe­ri­enc­ing black­outs.

I thought it was be­cause I wasn’t get­ting enough rest but even forc­ing my­self to sleep for eight hours a night didn’t make any dif­fer­ence.

My mother took me to the doc­tor who pre­scribed some med­i­ca­tion. This was a quick fix, but it wasn’t a cure. He sug­gested I see a psy­chol­o­gist.

The psy­chol­o­gist asked me mil­lions of ques­tions and even­tu­ally we started talk­ing about what had hap­pened be­tween Mbali and I.

As I told her the story I started cry­ing un­con­trol­lably and it sud­denly dawned on me that I was still an­gry.

“Well, it seems this is the main cause of your black­outs,” the psy­chol­o­gist an­nounced. “You’re un­der­go­ing huge stress due to some­thing bad that hap­pened in your past.”

I was shocked. “But what can I do? I’m writ­ing my fi­nal ex­ams soon and I can’t con­cen­trate on my stud­ies be­cause of the per­sis­tent headaches and black­outs.”

“It’s quite sim­ple. All you have to do is for­give your friend. You may be the vic­tim in this story but that doesn’t mean you won’t feel bad, just as she does. You used to be a big part of each other’s lives so her ab­sence is as painful to you as it is to her. For­give her.”

These weren’t the words I wanted to hear, but I knew she was right. I had to do some­thing – for both our sakes.

THE next day I went to visit my friend’s home for the first time in years. Her car was parked out­side and for a sec­ond I thought, that should’ve been mine. But I pulled my­self to­gether – I was here to make peace. I knocked on the door and her gogo wel­comed me with a warm smile, just like she’d al­ways done. I asked to speak to Mbali and she di­rected me to her be­d­room.

The room was un­recog­nis­able – a bit like my friend who lay on her bed look­ing thin, frag­ile and very ill.

“Mbali! What hap­pened to you?” I cried, shocked by her ap­pear­ance.

“Sne, my old friend, you came. When will you for­give me? I’ve apol­o­gised for many years but you never replied. I’ve suf­fered so much be­cause of what I did to you.

“All the lux­u­ries I have – my car, my home, my con­nec­tions – they mean noth­ing to me com­pared to what we had. Take them all – I don’t want them any­more. I want my friend. I’m so sorry, Sne. If I could turn back the hands of time, be­lieve me, I would.”

Mbali had been se­verely de­pressed for months and she’d been sus­pended from work. She was on the verge of sui­cide.

Guilt con­sumed me as I looked at the wreck that used to be my friend. I also wished I could turn back time so that I’d an­swered her calls and replied to her mes­sages. I wished I’d lis­tened to her pleas and ac­cepted her apolo­gies. I’d al­most lost my friend for good.

Now, a year later, Mbali is back on her feet and thriv­ing once again. I’m a qual­i­fied phys­io­ther­a­pist and love ev­ery mo­ment of my work. Ev­ery week­end we get to­gether to catch up and en­joy each other’s com­pany, just like the old days.

It was a hard les­son but I’ve learnt to never un­der­es­ti­mate the power of for­give­ness.

‘All the lux­u­ries I have mean noth­ing to me com­pared to what we had’

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