“I have to get back to work” Tari said looking at Becky from where he stood. He had a glass of water in hand. Becky didn’t move or speak. She was lying on her side with her back to him.
“Becky?” he called. This was feeling like deja vu. ‘Not again’ he thought. “I’ll let myself out” he said. Emptied the glass and placed it on the dresser. He was about leaving the room when she spoke, without turning to face him, “This is wrong, Tari. How long will this go on?” she said in a voice so low he almost didn’t hear her.
“Do you want an answer or you want the truth?” he said.
“Are you kidding me? Like seriously? You can’t be fucking me and fucking with my mind too, Tari!” she yelled, jack-knifing out of bed.
“Please, don’t cuss and keep your voice down” he said. She was standing a few steps away looking very pissed.
“I’ll do whatever I want, Tari. And I’ll have you know, this” she pointed at him and then herself “whatever it is, however you define it in your twisted mind, is over!” she said breathless with rage. She could not remember being more angry. How could he be toying with her, June, the relationship between herself and June, his relationship with June, all of that and act so cool and dispassionate?
“Why don’t we talk about this when you are in a much better mood?” Tari offered in a level voice. He had to keep a rein on his emotions, no point flipping his lid. He’d give her whatever she wanted and keep things peaceful.
“Tari, please, leave. I do not want to ever speak to or see you again” Becky said. Tears stung at her eyes, but she’d be damned if she would let him see her cry over him.
“Don’t say stuff you don’t mean just ‘cos you‘re mad at me” Tari said
“I mean it, Tari. This is a nightmare and I want it over” she asserted.
Tari looked her over, she was nude and angry and super sexy. “Alright” he said, spun around and walked out.
June woke up to the stench of fuel. She looked around, the cabbie was standing just outside her window paying a fuel attendant. It was a filling station close to the school, about 3 minutes’ walk. She considered what the wisdom was in stopping for fuel when he was almost at her destination. All he had do was drop her off and then come back for it.
“Sorry, ma” the cabbie said getting behind the wheels and driving off.
The only thing she hated about living in the staff quarters of the school was that marked cabs, like the one she was in, were not allowed on the premises. So she had to get off at the gate and walk to her apartment. She paid off the cab, greeted the security guards and began her walk. Thankfully, it was not a sunny afternoon.
Tari swore. Now he knew why he had a feeling to go through the other gate. He looked at the clock on his dashboard. “Why is she here at this time?” he asked himself.
He flashed his lamps just as June saw his car approaching, a confused look on her face.
“Hello” he said, pulling up beside her.
“What are you doing here?” June asked surprised.
“Becky” he replied.
“What about her?” June asked, a worried look taking over her expression.
“Get in, we’ll talk” he said. She got in and he turned the car around.
“What happened to Becky?” June asked immediately they were headed in the direction of the house.
“I don’t know. She would not say. Saw her crossing the road on my way to the site, noticed she looked distraught and all. I didn’t think it would be safe to leave her on her own, so I gave her a ride home. Would have called you but I thought you were on air. And why are you home at this hour?” he asked.
“Huh? Me? I think I’m coming down with malaria or something.” June said. She knew what the issue with Becky was – Alfred!
“Malaria? Taken any medications?” he asked.
“Not yet. It started this morning” she said, her concern switching back from Becky to herself.
“Sorry.” he said as they pulled up at the house.
Becky heard voices at the door. She knew it was unlocked, she had not moved from her collapsed posture on the bed since Tari shut it behind him. As she got up, she recognised the voices – Tari and June! “What was June doing home at this time?” she wondered aloud. Quickly, she straightened out the sheets, picked up her clothes and underwear and dashed into the bathroom. She shut the door silently as she heard June call out her name.
Tari sat at the foreman’s desk, staring at the burger and soda he had gotten on his way to the site. He felt terrible, things had spun out of his careful control. This was not how he’d expected things to go. He had to come up with a way to make things right. Or maybe this was a lost cause. If he played it cool, the present storm will definitely blow over and things would return to a semblance of normalcy, at the very least.
In truth, he had thought he was over her. He was certain he was. She had shown no interest in him whatsoever after the night they spent together in the hotel. Seeing her earlier today had caused a reawakening of stuff he thought was dead and buried. Still he had kept his cool and tried to be ‘just a friend’, a listening ear like he had been before that night. He had made it all the way to her place and had even driven off, only for him to be taken over by unbridled desire. It was a shameless move, he knew. “And now everything is royally fucked!” he said.
He dumped the burger in the bin, left the soda on the table and walked out.
He had been lucky that June had arrived a minute after he left the house, he could not fathom the embarrassment being caught with Becky by June would have caused him. He was relieved that had not happened but was angry that he had been reduced to sneaking around this way. He was a grown man and should be able to do whatever he pleased. He kicked the wheel of his SUV as he came to it.
“Aaarrrrggggh!” he yelled, frustrated.
Becky sat before the TV, neither seeing nor hearing what was on. When June had tapped on the bathroom door earlier, she had exited, already dressed, wearing a long face, and when June had asked what the issue was, she had said they would talk later. After Tari’s departure, she had gone to get some drugs for June. How could she have let him take her so easily, right here in the house she shared with June? She wondered. What would she have said or done if June had walked in on them? “I’ll just die” she murmured to herself. It was a very close call, a sure signal she was on very thin ice.
“Feeling better?” Becky asked June who had just appeared in the living room. It had been slightly over an hour since she had gone to the pharmacy to get June the malaria medication. June had taken them and gone to bed but not before she asked and heard from Becky what had happened with Sope. She had praised Becky and admonished her to stick to her guns. Clearly, Tari had told June how he ran into her at the pedestrian crossing looking distraught and how he had given her a ride home. Of course, he’d conveniently left out the rest. Becky also realised Tari had made it look to June like she had refused to tell him what the reason for her troubled state was.
“Yeah. Kind of hungry now sef” June replied sitting beside Becky.
“What would you like?” Becky asked.
“Chinese” she said with a grin, making Becky laugh. It was a good feeling.
“How do we get that?” Becky asked.
“Will ask Tari to help on his way from work” June replied.
“And before then?” Becky pressed, uneasy at the thought of having to see and spend time in Tari’s presence again. “Let me fry you some plantain” she added getting up. She had abandoned her plans of going to the school library to get some work done, she knew it would be a waste of her time to go in her state.
Tari did show up that the evening with Chinese take out for June and Becky. He and Becky managed to maintain an acceptable level of civility towards each other for June’s benefit. After about 20 minutes that seemed like forever, Becky left the couple in the living room and went to bed. She wished very much to be woken up from the nightmare that had become her life. She thought about the couple and the things she knew about them, it made her sick. Both had been unfaithful in the most damning ways and yet they managed a show of a relationship pretty decently. She knew June would give anything to always have Tari, but she was not sure Tari felt the same way. She felt trapped, the weight of the curse of knowledge bearing heavily down on her shoulders.
One thing was certain, though, June could have Tari, for all she cared. She would never again be sucked into bed with him. She hated his guts not only for what he was doing to June (of which she was equally guilty), but for the way he handled her and what had happened between them. “Bastard” she cussed, put a pillow over her face and willed herself to sleep.
“Dan!” June called excited. She was at the mall to pick up a few things. It had been over a week she had seen Dan and June had all the more missed him because she was missing out on updates on his issue – the pregnancy hanging over his head. She had been to the house twice after their last meet, but Dan had not been home and Thelma had never stepped out of her room throughout June’s visits. Her attempts to chat Dan up on BBM had been unsuccessful too, in the sense that he was mostly busy or tired and often begged off the chat.
“June, how are you?” Dan said giving her a hug.
“You are a boss now. We don’t see or hear from you anymore” June accused.
“I’m sorry, Darl. This project I‘m working on is crazy. You know how it is working with fine girls” he said, rolling his eyes, “then add success and plenty cash to that, what you have are crazy girls with colossal attitudes and endless requests” he added.
“I can imagine” June said laughing.
“And they can so change their minds! When they start their BS, I just go somewhere and have a smoke, when they are ready, the director calls my phone. At this rate, if the director commits suicide, I won’t be surprised” he said making her laugh.
“Sorry” June said still laughing.
“Thanks” Dan replied.
“How are you?” June said, in a serious tone.
“I’m holding up” Dan said with a shrug.
“And Thelma?” June asked
“She’s fine. I’m actually here to pick up stuff she requested” he replied.
“You guys taking things to the next step?” June ventured.
“Yup! We have both agreed to keep the baby. I’m searching for a crib here now. No point moving back south.”
“Wow! I’m happy for you guys. What of her business and stuff back home?” she said, feigning ignorance. She already knew, from Tari, they were keeping the baby.
“We would rather keep some distance between her and her insane ex-fiance. That guy is a lunatic.”
“Really? Cliff is an issue?” June asked. She realised she may have just made a mistake by mentioning his name. She was not sure just how much Dan knew about her past.
Dan didn’t seem to notice as he answered “Big time!”
As they picked up the stuff from the list Thelma had sent him together, Dan filled June in on what had been going on.
After they had decided to keep the baby, Thelma had called Cliff and broken things off with him. Then all hell was let lose. He didn’t take the news well and swore to repay her unfaithfulness. Apparently, Thelma had given her reason for the break up as that she met someone else. Cliff was calling her constantly with all manner of threats, calling her names and promising her a terrible life.
June could not believe her ears. Cliff had surely changed, she herself had experienced it first hand, but she never knew how much of a change he had undergone.
“That’s just sick.” June said appalled.
“I swear. She has abandoned her SIM cards now and with it most of her clientele. That hurt her pretty bad. We were at the clinic a few days ago, the doctor said her BP is borderline or something. Like she’s at risk of hypertension. For gawd sakes, Thelma is not even 24 yet! If I get my hands on that Cliff dude…” he left off.
“I’m sorry, Dan. Please, let’s focus on Thelma. You need to plead with her to take things easy, also you need be supportive and available” June admonished.
“I’m trying. But see, my schedule is off the charts these days. And honestly, its going to stay so for a while yet” Dan said perplexed.
“You must find a balance, Dan. I know your career and the fees are important, but this is the life of your lover and your unborn child we are talking about here”.
“I’m at my wits end” Dan said helplessly.
“Is it ok if I speak with her?” June asked
Dan gave this some thought and then agreed. “Please, do all you can” he said.
June volunteered to help Dan get the groceries and supplies to the house so he could get back to work. Dan drove to the studio, which was on the way from the mall to the house, got off and had June take the car from there. “I’ll take a cab home” he had said and thanked June profusely for her help.
June was even more glad, in arrears, about her treatment of Cliff. She had almost felt sorry for him, considering the amount of hours of work he might have lost on the camera, but now she was doubly sure he deserved it and even more. Yes, Thelma had cheated on him, (but he was also cheating on her anyway) then she got pregnant and then asked for a break up (which was pretty nice of her. She could have left him hanging) and now he wants to literally kill her and the unborn child (even if he didn’t know she was pregnant, his terror could make Thelma lose the baby).
“Murderer” June spat. She knew where her loyalties lay right now. They lay solidly with Dan (who had decided to settle down with a girl he clearly loved and had accepted with his baby) and Thelma (a girl who had made a mistake, followed her heart and is trying to build a new life for herself). Yes, definitely, she was on their team. It was even made easier to know the one on the other side was a low-life like Cliff.
“The enemy of your enemy is your friend” she said as she pulled up at Tari’s.
June was doing the dishes. She could hear laughter from the living room. She and Thelma had made a meal, while talking and playing. She had been able to reach out to Thelma and burst her out of the prison of self pity, hate and fear – at least for now. They had talked about what she had gone through in the past week at the hands of Cliff – the phone calls and texts. She did realise it was a good thing Cliff didn’t have an idea where she was or who she was with. June had advised her to reveal her location to no one.
Tari and then Dan had arrived later and it had been all fun and games after they had all eaten. Now she was alone in the kitchen and a thought flashed through her mind. Instantly, she put the dish she was holding back in the sink, closed her eyes, put her palms together and said a silent prayer.
“God, I beg you, please, don’t let me be pregnant for Cliff” she said.
She had taken a pill the morning after her arrival from Asaba – about 6 hours outside the 72 hour prescribed period of the pill she took. She had taken it just before she went on air on Monday morning, but remembered she was with Cliff in the early hours of Saturday.
“Please, God. Please, God” she repeated as she got back to her chore. A pregnancy at this stage would be the end of her happiness, more so because of whose it would be. She didn’t want to lose Tari nor be tied to Cliff. She had never been pregnant and didn’t know what she would feel like if she were. She earnestly hoped the malaria symptoms she had felt last week was simply that and nothing more. She made a mental note to have a pregnancy test next week.
Becky had just gotten off the phone with Zenaide. It was always fun speaking with her Mozambican friend. Zenaide had reiterated at the end of her call, as always that Becky come visit her sometime. To which Becky had answered, as always, “muito em breve, querido”.
“She’s such a darling” June said.
“Yes. Didn’t know we would strike off such a friendship” Becky replied smiling.
“Abi? With all her class and wealth, she seems pretty down-to-earth” June said, then added “In other news, I took a pregnancy test this morning”.
“And….?” Becky asked, her heart had skipped a beat.
“Negative. I’m super relieved” June said grinning. “Would have been terrible to have taken in for that creep” she added.
Becky gave her a hug “I’m happy for you” she managed. In truth she was concerned about her own self. She had been waiting to take a test herself, she had a very bad feeling about it. But she could not possibly share it with June.
There was a knock on the door.
“He’s here” June said with a smile. Becky forced a smile back. “See you later, dear” she added as she headed for the door.
June opened the door and found Tari smiling at her. They kissed briefly. Tari waved at Becky who only nodded in response. June’s back was to her, so she didn’t have to fake a quality response. He shut the door.
“How was your day?” June asked as she and Tari walked to his car.
“It was alright” he replied. Recently he had seen another side of June, the caring, selfless and loving person. He had studied how she had been even more caring to him, Dan and Thelma. Especially Thelma, who she had constantly visited and cheered up for the past week. The results were evident in Thelma’s health. ‘She does have a good heart’ he thought looking down at her. Again, he kissed her. She smiled up at him. They got in the car and drove off.
Becky was staring at her phone. It was something she had always wanted and had finally gotten after the consultancy Tari had hooked her up with. It was lovely and a pleasure to use but in moments like these, it brought back memories. For her, the best feature that had come with it was the option to block calls and SMS from a number. She had promptly blocked Alfred the day she discovered it.
She picked it up and scrolled to Tari’s name. She didn’t know whether to block or delete. If she was not so close to June, who might want to use her phone to reach him some day, it would not be such a hard decision to make. She was still weighing her options when a BBM came in from June
“On our way bk”
“okies” she replied.
“we finally did it”
Becky replied with a ‘cover’s face’ smiley.
“best I eva had” June typed with an ‘In love’ smiley.
Becky smiled, sent “smh” as tears rolled down her cheeks.
June was having brunch alone and texting with Tari. Last night had been blissful, somehow it felt like they had transcended to another level in their relationship. It had been worth the wait, after all. Her man was different now, she knew she had him now. All her past insecurities had melted away by the time she woke up this morning.
She was laughing at something funny Tari said when a call came in from Thelma.
“Hello” June said gaily
“June?” Thelma replied. It was clear to June that something was terribly wrong from the tone of her voice.
“What is it Hon?” June asked, now very concerned.
“He sent me a mail” Thelma replied. Now June was sure Thelma was crying.
“Okay?” June encouraged her to go on. She already knew who “He” was.
“He sent me my nudes!” Thelma wailed.
“Oh, no!” June said. “Hang in there, I’m on my way.”
June was looking at the mail on Thelma’s tab. There were about 8 pictures attached, no words in the mail, the subject was ‘You might want to reconsider.’
“Motherfucker!” June cussed.
“What do I do? I can’t tell Dan” Thelma said looking truly shaken.
“How did he get the pictures? Were they taken with your permission?” June asked
“Some of them. Others, I have no idea when they were taken” Thelma replied, clearly ashamed.
“Stay strong. We’ll have to sit this out. No response of any kind. But you’ll have to tell Dan. It won’t be nice if he came across them online” June said while trying to think ahead of Cliff.
“Why is he doing this?” Thelma cried.
“I never knew he was capable of all of this madness” June replied, holding Thelma’s hands reassuringly.
June woke up 4 minutes before her alarm. It was not strange, her body clock had adjusted the past few months. She thought of the the night before: she, Tari, Dan and Thelma had gone to a karaoke bar and had a blast. Thelma was an excellent singer, even Dan had not known this fact. It had been a week since the new phase of the relationship started and she had loved every minute, Tari had become extremely warm and attentive, making out time to be with her at least every other day.
Thelma’s pregnancy was coming along nicely and June had joined in the search for an accommodation for the couple, driving around in Dan’s car with Thelma after the morning show inspecting vacant apartments in chosen locations. Dan had provided a budget and left the choice and details to the ladies. Like June had suggested, Thelma had come clean to Dan (he had taken it very well), and had played mute with Cliff, without any kind of response to his threat with her nudes. He had not contacted her since then. Hopefully, he would let up and let her be.
She looked at Becky’s side of the bed. It was empty. It was a little odd that Becky would be up before her, but then maybe she just went to use the bathroom. June silenced her alarm just as it started, before it could make a sound, got out of bed and headed for the bathroom.
The door was slightly ajar, June tapped on it as she pushed it open. She found a startled Becky sitting on a covered toilet bowl. She was dressed in her sleeping clothes – a spaghetti top with cut-off shorts and was hurriedly slipping something into her pocket.
“Are you okay, Becks?” June asked. Becky’s eyes were blood-shot.
“Yeah. I’m ok” Becky replied getting off the toilet.
It was not her phone Becky was hiding from her. The phone was there on the sink just beside June. As her eyes came to rest on the phone, her question as to what her friend was hiding from her was answered.
Right there on the sink, beside Becky’s new phone was the sachet of a pregnancy test strip.