Tari almost did a back-flip.
He tossed his phone on the bed, dropped in a seat and quickly launched his laptop. He dismissed the thoughts of Becky that the cracked screen never failed to elicit in his subconscious. No time for regrets and sinking feelings of pain today, he was uber excited.
He looked at the mail on the 13 inch screen of his laptop and in his mind it got juicer. It was as if the slightly less than 5 inch screen of his phone was an injustice to the mail and the news it carried.
“This is good” he said, leaning back in his chair. The mail was from his boss, forwarded from the folks in charge of the partnership at TQ. The deal had been struck! Exploration was to commence before the end of the year, environmental impact assessment to begin immediately too.
“Whoop! Whoop!!” Tari hollered, got out of his chair and made a dash for the bathroom. His boss had added a note saying Tari and the Chief Engineer should hand-pick a team, not more than 5 in number and begin travel arrangements. ‘What better way to start the day?’ he thought as he unleashed a jet of cold water on his body.
Becky sat still on the bed. She let the feeling wash over her. It was over. Her secret was out in the most damning way.
The moment June had seen the test strip sachet, she had not bothered with further questions. Her younger friend had simply stepped up to her and retrieved the two test strips hidden in her pocket. Becky had not bothered to resist. June had taken a look at the results, a look at Becky’s face, then taken her hand and led her to the room where they both sat in silence for a while. Becky could not bring herself to look at June when she’d asked her who was responsible for the pregnancy. She had barely managed a quiet “I am sorry”. She thought she heard June gasp, but she could not be sure as she could not venture a look at her.
At this point, June had gotten up from the bed and left for the living room. She could hear June on the phone now, saying she might be late to work this morning. Then silence, footsteps, and then she was back.
“Becky?” June called softly.
Becky managed to look up at June without a word.
“Whose is it? Please, tell me. I need you to say it” June pleaded.
Becky felt the tears roll off her cheeks and onto her laps. ‘Why was this happening to her?’ she thought. She had betrayed her friend, slept with her man – not once but twice, and had gotten pregnant. To cap it off, her friend and roommate gets to find out at the same time she did.
“Becky?” June called again. She could taste the salt from her tears as she watched her friend crying. She was going to hold on to hope to the very last minute. All she wanted in the world right now was to hear Becky say any other name than the one she was almost certain was on its way off her tongue. ‘God, please’ she thought.
“Tari’s” Becky said.
The quiet word sounded like a cannon had been fired in the room. June exhaled the breath she had held on to since she had last spoken. It felt like someone had sucked out all the air in the room. Her head felt light and she felt beads of sweat on her brow.
“Please, say something” Becky pleaded after what seemed like forever in the still quiet room.
“I knew it. The moment I saw that strip, I knew whose it was” June said shaking her head.
“I’m so sorry, June” Becky said, now crying hard. The realisation that June didn’t even doubt, for one moment that she would be betrayed by her and in such a fashion was painful in its own right.
“I knew it. I knew it.” June repeated, looking down at Becky. The tears were flowing freely now.
“Please, forgive me. I don’t know what to say” Becky sobbed.
“Are you guys dating or something?” June asked, feeling extremely fooled.
Becky shook her head furiously.
“Just sex?” June pressed.
Becky looked up with a pleading look. “Please” she said.
“No! I need to know!” June snapped. “I have been such a fool. The best, no, the only thing you can do for me now is to tell me everything” she said, sitting on the dressing table across from Becky.
“We had sex. Twice. That’s all, June. I swear it” Becky replied.
“No. Tell me from the very beginning. When did all of this start?”
Becky had never felt so humiliated in her life. June asked for every little detail of her affair with Tari. She had no choice but to tell, and she did. As much as it sealed her fate, it did make her feel lighter to have finally let it all out.
“…we had a fight. It’s over. We have not spoken since” Becky finished.
“Wow! Wow!!” June said sobbing.
“I’m so sorry, June. Please forgive me” Becky pleaded on her knees before June. The last time one was on her knees before the other was over a decade ago in secondary school. And it had been the other way around. Becky could not recall June’s exact offence, but she recalled having punished June.
Suddenly June started a mirthless laugh. “Do you know how I knew, Becky?” she asked.
“No” Becky replied sheepishly from her place on her knees at June’s feet.
“Right on this dresser. He left a glass cup. I know you never use that cup. It’s the cup I have used in serving him severally. How could I have seen that and still thought nothing was up?”
“I’m sorry, June. I made some wrong decisions. Very bad ones. Please, find it in your heart to forgive me” Becky said laying her head in June’s laps in surrender.
It must have been about a quarter of an hour later, by Becky’s estimation, before June spoke again.
“I forgive you, Becky. Even him” she said, getting to her feet and taking Becky with her.
“Thank you” Becky said, looking at June in a bid to gauge the amount of truth in what she had just heard.
“Boys will be boys. Let’s not sweat it. This is all so unfortunate, but there is a simple solution. Sisters stick together, right?” June said
Becky only nodded, while she wondered what June was driving at.
“Family always comes before boys, yeah?” June asked, as she wiped Becky’s face with her palm.
Becky managed a weak and wobbly smile, “Yes” she agreed.
“Does he know? Or have a suspicion?” June asked.
“About the pregnancy?” Becky asked amazed. In calmer times, she would have reminded June that they both just found out.
“Yeah” June affirmed.
“No. He doesn’t. You alone know” she replied trying hard to ensure June was on her team on this one.
“Good. We won’t tell him, we will get rid of the pregnancy and -” June was saying.
“What?” Becky’s eyes popped.
“Yes!” June replied, somewhat taken aback
“No way! I’m not having another abortion!” Becky said resolute, clenching her fists and jaw.
June took one look at her. She had only seen that pose a few times since she had known Becky and she knew what it meant – “you’ll have to kill me first”. She dropped on her knees before Becky.
“Please, I beg of you. I don’t want to lose him” she said. The tears were back.
“June!” Becky snapped, getting on her knees before June “Snap out of it. You are not losing him” she added, holding her by the shoulders.
“You want him, don’t you?” June sniffed, looking Becky straight in the eyes. “Please, don’t lie to me” she added.
“No, I do not!” Becky affirmed.
“Prove it” June said.
“Lose the baby!”
“Hell, no!” Becky screamed, jumping to her feet. June followed her.
“Why?” June asked, on Becky’s heels.
“I will NOT have another abortion! That’s why!” she said, resolute as she stopped in the living room and spun around to face June.
“Yes, you will!” June shot back.
“Are you out of your mind?” Becky asked, now angry.
“Are you?” June replied.
“Mind your tongue, June!”
“All the while my boyfriend was keeping himself from me, it was you who was keeping him satisfied! Are you happy now?” June poured, pointing at Becky’s tommy.
June didn’t see it coming. Becky’s palm landed solidly across her face with a sting and a loud clap. She was stunned. Disoriented, she took a few steps back with one hand stretched out for balance and the other on the hurting cheek. A look of utter disbelief and pain etched on her face.
Becky stared straight at her without a word. Her eyes aflame with rage. “How dare you allude I am happy to be pregnant for the wrong man a fourth time?” she said.
June turned around and left the living room without a word. Becky collapsed onto the sofa.
A few minutes later, June walked past Becky in the living room, she had a carry-on with her. “I’ll be back for my stuff later” she said, and with that was gone before Becky could stop her.
June looked at her phone which had just beeped. It was an SMS from Tari
“Hey, I have news. Call when you get off air.”
After calling in sick, she had wet the pillow, crying in her room here at the first hotel that had come to her mind. She had never been a guest, but had visit the bar twice and liked the caliber of people she saw check in and out. She had checked in and paid for two nights with her card. She needed time to sort out her next step. Definitely, her stay with Becky was over and there was no way she was moving in with Tari; that would be overtly desperate.
“The stupid boy is not even listening to the show” she said after reading the SMS. She hit reply
“I hv news 4 u 2.”
Tari was on his office phone with Meg when June’s reply came in. He knew they were not allowed to use their personal phones on air. He read her message. What could be up? There was no point tuning in to the show, he had already given himself away and anyway, she was not on it. He sent a quick reply.
“Where are you?”
Her response was the same as his question.
“Whr u @?”
Tari finished off the phone conversation, took a long look at the message, then set down the phone. He didn’t like what he felt. Something was coming and he knew it. He dialed June’s number. After it rang out twice, he knew something was definitely up. So he sent a text:
“I’m at the office all day. Swing by at lunch time?”
Her response was instant. A simple “K”.
He looked at his watch, he was due in a meeting in about five minutes. Whatever June was bringing, he could not get into all of it yet. He would have about an hour at the end of the meeting to think ahead of her arrival at lunch time. He would worry about her later, he decided.
Becky walked slowly back to the staff room from a class she just took. Her mind was far away. She had barely made it to work and through her class. It was only made bearable because they were her favourite class of students.
She made it to the staff room and sat at her desk. She felt very alone. She had tried calling Zenaide but had gotten an answering machine. She had left what she hoped was a cherry enough message, asking for a call back, on the machine for her friend. She was back to having only one friend. No matter how all of this panned out she was all too sure her friendship with June was done.
She wished she could find a dark corner, roll up in the fetal position and be left alone.
How did one handle such a situation? She tried to think of all the books she’d read, stories she’d heard and movies she’d seen but nothing worth exploring came to mind. She didn’t know what to do or not to do. One thing was certain, though, she was not going to have the pregnancy terminated.
She tried to think of the fallout from such a decision. How would it affect her life? Her job? Her finances? If she lost/quit her job, for instance, because she was asked to (being a bad influence on the kids) or because of the stigma, then the house was gone too. She sure did not have enough saved up for accommodation in Abuja. Go back home to Lagos? The shame. The disappointment her mum and siblings would feel. The lack they all would have to put up with in such an event.
“Why is this all gloom and doom?” she asked herself.
‘There had to be a bright side’ she though. Some girls were lucky enough to be married by the father of the unborn child. This was surely not going to be her case. Aside the deep hatred she felt for Tari, June would rather die than see her have Tari. She knew that.
She needed advice from someone. Preferably someone with experience. “Zenaide” she murmured. That was the only friend she had and could talk to who at the same time, had gone through a similar experience.
‘But Zenaide had the cushion of wealth. Her needs were met. And the man was responsible, she didn’t have to cut him off’ she reasoned.
She dialed Zenaide again and got her machine. She left a message, this time in Portuguese. Too many idle ears in the staff room.
It was time to call in the cavalry.
June called up her brothers, dad and two uncles. The calls were about the same thing – money. She needed money, lots of it. She told them she didn’t like her place anymore and wanted to move out and also she needed to get her own car because the spate of cab-robberies was alarming. They all complained, but she knew they would come through as always. They would send her money. Same way they had all done last time when she said she needed a place to stay in the F.C.T. She had taken the monies and instead moved in with Becky. That stash was almost depleted now. She needed more. And for real, this time, she needed a place to stay.
Her eldest brother had wanted to know why she was suddenly tired of where she stayed when the rent was not yet due. She told him she had to work nights at times and the distance to the studio was not helping her. Plus had he forgotten she had been in an accident due to these factors? He said ‘Ok’ complained some more and ended with an “I’ll see what I can do before weekend.” And she had teased him as usual with “Bro, spend this money!” They had both laughed and that was it. She knew he would send her good money.
She knew a few weeks or months down the line, her folks will somehow find out she called every one of them with the same request and they would all laugh over it as usual.
She ignored yet another call from Thelma. She was in no mood to be of assistance at the moment. She’d call her back later. But for now, she had her own battles to fight.
“No way I’m losing this battle” June said as she picked up her bag and left her hotel room.
She would keep her lunch date with Tari.
“He’s still my man. Becky, baby or no baby can’t change that” she murmured as she walked along the corridor.
Tari had the whole team in his office. Every angle of the project and their logistics had to be covered. All five team members and Meg were in the room with laptops or tablets, raising questions, taking notes, searching for info, making suggestions or some other thing. This beehive had formed here right after the previous meeting in the conference room.
“Do you guys absolutely need a swimming pool?” Meg asked. She was trying to find a five bedroom villa for the team to stay in Maputo. It would be their base, but a lot of travelling was envisaged.
No one answered, but all paid attention.
The Chief Engineer was the oldest in the room, Tari looked at him, he didn’t seem to have an opinion or care about the question. Tari looked at the other guys, and he saw they would like one but no one wanted to speak first.
“Most definitely” he said, “Lots of offshore work, we need constant swimming practice” he added with a coy smile.
Meg rolled her eyes at him. “How about -” she was saying when Tari’s desk phone buzzed.
Tari raised a finger at Meg and swooped up the receiver. “Hello?” he said.
“Miss. June is here for you, Sir” Tari heard one of the receptionist say.
He was very close to cussing out loud. He had completely forgotten about their lunch date! He sighed, said “Ok. I’ll be down in a minute.” and hung up.
He got up, picked his car keys and announced “Lunch break, people!” And with that he exited the room, leaving a bunch of laughing colleagues in his office.
Everything seemed a little brittle. Tari didn’t like it. They had come to this restaurant in a hotel June had insisted upon. The food was good and the ambience was great, but he knew enough to know something was off. She had said she took the day off to run an errand for her an Uncle at the Federal Secretariat. He had no reason to doubt that but still…
“What’s eating you up?” he asked.
“Nothing, Babe” June replied.
“Sure?” he pressed, placing his palm on her hand and stroking lightly.
“You said you have good news?” she asked.
“Yes, I do” he reaffirmed.
“The way you smiled when you said that, I can tell its good news” she said smiling through her pain. She had to shove the pain aside, she had to see the big picture here. This was her man. He might have strayed, but she was willing to take him back and forgive him. They could still make this fly.
“You are quite right” he replied, now grinning. Glad that the cloud over their table had begun to lift slowly.
“Why don’t you order a bottle of wine and we can go upstairs? Then you can tell me all about it” June said with a wink.
“Upstairs?” Tari asked a little lost.
“I booked a room for us, Hon. 206. Join me” she said, picked up her bag and walked away.
His raised eyebrow and smile must have been funny, because when she looked back at him, she laughed.
Wine bottle in hand, he knocked on the door of room 206. He stole a glance at his watch. He knew what awaited him beyond the door and he welcomed it, the only bane being that he didn’t have all day.
When he didn’t get an answer he tried the door, it opened. He walked into the dimly lit room and shut the door behind him while he waited for his eyes to adjust.
“June?” he called out.
“In the bathroom. There are glasses on the fridge” he heard her from his right side.
“Ok…” he said and headed to the fridge at the far end of the room.
A few minutes later, he had poured the wine, sipped some of his and was quite comfortable. June came out of the bathroom, a towel around her body.
“Where’s mine?” she asked about her wine glass.
“Here” Tari handed it to her.
“So, the good news?” she asked standing before him.
“Yeah. We got our green light on the Mozambique deal. Immediate execution” he said with a wide grin.
“Fantastic!” June said.
They clinked glasses, “To better days” Tari said.
“Better times” June said, emptied her glass and put it away.
Tari watched her over the rim of his glass as her towel fell to the floor. She reached out and took his glass from him, carefully placing it beside her’s, then she kissed him as he pulled her down to him.
Tari stood at the foot of the bed, wine glass in hand, smiling down at June who was staring at him. Both were still naked.
“I wish I didn’t have to go” he said.
“It’s ok. I’ll be here when you are done at work” she replied.
“Really? Is it my birthday?” he asked laughing.
“I’ll be here for a few days” June said. She noticed a slight frown creep unto his face.
“Is everything alright?’ he asked coming a step closer. Alarms going off loudly in his head.
“We will get through it” June said with a sad smile.
“You and Becky have a misunderstanding?” Tari asked, relaxing a little. Clearly not knowing who “we” in her last statement referred to.
“Becky hit me, Tari. She slapped me” June said. She was crying now as the memories from earlier in the day flooded her head.
“What?!? Why would she do that?” Tari said trying to put his glass on the fridge before going over to console her.
“Because she is carrying your baby!” June declared.
Tari’s involuntary hand motion knocked over both glasses and the unfinished bottle of wine.