They’re friends – the closest friends you’ll ever meet, although I sometimes wonder if their friendship isn’t just a product of convenience. They’re cousins – their mothers are sisters. They grew up together, in the same neighbourhood, went to school together, and today, they’re neighbours. They’ve been there for each other their whole lives. They’ve laughed together, fought together, with each other, won battles together, for each other… it’s almost impossible to have one without the other. They’re the perfect definition of friendship, though they’re so different from each other.

Yolande is beautiful… so beautiful. She’s a beauty queen. Perfect figure, angelic face, beautiful smile, captivating eyes… She’s always so well put together, her makeup on point. She’s the girl your friends say is out of your league. She breathes confidence, lights up a room when she walks into it… But she has a past. A dark past that makes you wonder how someone who went through what she did could be so radiant. Her story is an inspiration to many.
On the downside, she doesn’t talk much. She has a bit of an attitude. She’ll only tell you what you need to hear – she’s private like that. She’ll have you second-guessing everything, even yourself. You’ll have a hard time trusting her. If she’s kind enough to let you into her secret place though, you’ll realise she’s only human… like the rest of us.

Judith is the nice one. She’s bubbly, the life of any party. Everybody knows Judith, and everybody loves her. She’s cool, she’s free… if there’s one person who knows that “You Only Live Once”, it’s Judith. She has and continues to enjoy her life. She’s quite beautiful too, but nothing like her cousin and friend. Her personality makes up for all her flaws. She’s a beauty-on-the-inside type of girl. She has a big heart. She can be anybody’s best friend. She’ll make you fall in love with her without even realising it…

Yolande and Judith are both “happily” married. Judith has been married a little bit longer than Yolande, but they’ve both contributed in the building of each others’ relationships. Their husbands are friends; in fact Judith’s husband mentored Yolande’s
Both women went through abusive relationships before they met their men and settled down. This undoubtedly brought them closer to each other. You could argue that their current relationships are quite abusive too, but I guess time made them wiser and stronger – they learnt how to survive.

Everybody knows about Judith’s reckless marriage. Everybody also knows that it wasn’t always as bad as it is today.
Sam, Judith’s husband, was once her knight in a shining armour who rescued her from an abusive relationship. And then he changed. I guess marriage does that to some people – they change. They stop being charming; they stop trying. Sam is an example of what a husband shouldn’t be: ambitionless, he cheats, he squanders the family’s resources… but Judith rose above all that. Thanks to her, I sometimes catch myself admiring their couple from afar.
Judith will tell you that breaking up with her husband won’t mean the end of her misery, so, she adapted… She created a life of her own. She’s independent. She’s the provider of her home. She learnt how to work around Sam’s flaws to blossom. With Sam in her life, she may never reach her full potential, but everybody will agree that she is successful, in her own special way. She won’t let Sam flaw’s come in her way: she’s learnt to fight him, while standing by his side, with a smile on her face. She reminds me of that infamous Kirundi saying – Niko zubakwa!

Yolande, on the other hand, is living a picture perfect marriage. Laurent, her husband, is just as handsome as she is beautiful. He is charismatic, a go-getter, a winner… he radiates success. When he talks, everybody stops what they’re doing and listens… and applauds when he’s done. He was born for the stage. Laurent and Yolande are always the best dressed couple at a wedding – colour-coded and everything. They win every couple game that exists. They’re a team, like the Underwoods. When mothers are teaching their kids about successful marriage, Laurent and Yolande are the example they give… naive mothers who only see what shines.
Their marriage isn’t perfect, it’s just made to look like it is. Almost everyone knows Laurent is a control freak. He monitors Yolande’s each and every move. She gives him her paycheck at the end of the month, and he decides how the money will be spent. Their conversations are scripted, and Yolande better not say anything that could cross Laurent otherwise she would be in trouble. He made her. He picked her up when she was at her lowest, almost dead from a past relationship; and he made her the woman she is today. She’s not yet quite as successful as Judith, but soon, Laurent will get her there. He is in control. She would be nothing without him. She celebrates him, but when you look deep into her eyes, you’ll hear her muffled cry for help. She yearns for freedom. Some say freedom is overrated, especially if it has no boundaries.

This story isn’t about Judith and Yolande… or about Sam and Laurent. It’s about Mireille.

Mireille’s and Yolande’s fathers are brothers. She grew up around Yolande and Judith. They’re her cousins and close friends, although she’s closer to Yolande than she is to Judith.
Mireille has a history too, filled with high ups and low downs. Her story is so similar to what Yolande and Judith went through – I guess everybody’s stories are the same to some extent… Nothing new under the Sun, ey?

Even if I chose to tell you more about Judith and Yolande, I know Mireille better. The reason I chose to tell you about the others is because Mireille is currently going through a rough patch in her relationship.
They’ve been together for a little over ten years. He isn’t the best guy she’s been with, and she could have done better, but at the time he seemed like the right choice. She settled… with what seemed like a good guy at the time, despite his troubled history. I guess she thought he had learnt something from all he went through, but he really hadn’t. It was just a façade – playing the Church boy to get the Church girl. It didn’t take long for his true colours to start showing. He’s slowly turning her life into a living hell. This is the guy who gives us all a bad name.
He isn’t the worse guy she’s been with though, but I think she’d be better of without him… or maybe not?

I have no idea how she’ll get out of the ditch she’s in, if she will… but something tells me she’ll end up like either Judith or Yolande. She could end up worse, like Halima, the divorcee with so many issues and trouble kids; but the optimist in me hopes she will pick herself up and become more… Maybe like the wise Mama Salum, her next door neighbour. She could redefine herself and set a new standard for marriage, but experience has taught me that we often end up resembling the people we spend most of our time with; and right now, Judith and Yolande are her closest friends.

Disclaimer: all characters appearing in this text are purely fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, events, countries and/or their leaders, is a product of your imagination.

By Karl-Chris R. Nsabiyumva. Check out his blog:, and follow him on Twitter: @Mr_Burundi

Photo by Chris Schwagga, Christian Mbanza & Nelson Niyakire