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Popularity. The feeling of being accepted as you are. The feeling of being beyond ordinary, admired, envied, loved. Popularity spelled Claire.

Claire was 29, happily married with two lovely daughters and a bakery business that had opened seven branches in the country. She was the official sweet tooth supplier for the white house, lived in the leafy suburbs of Karen and was the founder of the largest book club in the elite circle.

She had worked hard to get where she was, and her charm always opened doors for her when new prospects showed. Her husband, Mathew, was tall dark and no so bad on the eye. He was a doctor, a neurosurgeon to be precise and owned a very busy practice. He loved his work, and his family.

Her daughters, Olivia and Mia, were six and four respectively. They were both in ballet classes and seemed to have a bright future ahead of them. Olivia was more like her mum; proper, polite and sweet. She wanted to be an architect when she grew up. She enjoyed Lego bricks and had no time for dolls. Mia, on the other hand, reminded Claire of her brother. She was clumsy, loud and spoke her mind. Ballet was a bore for her, and she did not understand why she had to wear dresses for family functions. She would be the child climbing trees. chasing goats and being a mess wherever she went. But she was loved as she was, she was truly a beautiful mess.

Claire was on Facebook now. She had finally settled on the family photo to share with the world. They had recently taken a trip to Zanzibar as a family, and had used a private jet. There was a portrait of them all in front of the jet. The wind was so strong she had to hold her hat in place. But the surprised look on her face looked good on her. Mathew had a half-smile going on, which was good enough, and the girls were so excited they were caught jumping mid-air. This was the perfect little family. It would definitely have the girls talking, and quite jealous.

She eagerly typed a quote from Princess Diana, “Only do what your heart tells you” #familyrules #whenhedecidestospoilthefamily #myhusbandiscoolerthanyours #familyvacays

She smiled as she clicked on the post buttons and leaned back to wait for the likes. She had two hours to bum before she made her rounds at the bakeries.

She remembered when Mathew used to accompany her on her rounds. That was before daddy opened up a practice for him. Now, work took charge of his life. He came home around eleven, tired, hungry and sleepy. At times, he also came home drunk. He’d find Olivia and Mia asleep most of the time. The time they cherished for catching up was gone as they never had dinner together any more. They mainly had business like conversations. There’s an investment that needs his signature, they have an appearance at a party, there’s a fundraiser at home, bills that need be paid. She didn’t remember the last time he really looked at her, the last time he told her she looked beautiful without anyone around to hear his words.

She looked at her photo, which already had thirty likes and a few comments about how happy and blessed she was to have such a man in her life. She smiled, remembering the drama that ensued before he agreed to the trip. She had to talk to his PA to cancel his appointments. He yelled at her, saying she had cost him millions. She transferred some money to his account for the time he lost during the trip. She booked the plane, the hotel, planned the itinerary and paid for it all.

She was angry at him, for not stepping up. She was angry at herself, that she had allowed their dreams, ambitions and desire to be famous separate them. That they were okay acting out a role, rather than living their lives.

She remembered her dear friend, Aida, who had opened up about how miserable she was in her marriage. She spoke about his affair with her friends, the wastage of money, the emotional abuse and they all turned their backs on her. She got divorced, and got the family house. She got a hefty amount and was still getting maintenance fees each month. She was free but still had her life. But being a single mother, a divorcee did not sit well with the circle. Members agreed it best to have her off the book club. She was not invited to events any more, and what’s worst, her kids were not readmitted to school as the school culture did not believe in single parenting. She was shut off, while her husband moved on and got a new wife who was celebrated and embraced into the circle.

She sighed. That would never be her. She would not be rejected, ridiculed or laughed at. She had invested too much in this life to let go of it. It was who she was, it was what she knew to do. Mathew may not love her any more, but they were cordial enough with each other. He respected her, and she did him. Maybe somewhere along the line, they would fall in love again.

Maybe one day, the beautiful portrait she showed the world would become true.


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