Previously On Compound Matters… (Read HERE)
Telling someone that something they’ve already done was a stupid or unwise thing to do is an exercise in futility; but it doesn’t stop you from telling them anyway. Our words were too late and offered no solutions, yet we couldn’t help but say it.
“How could you?” I cried out in utter dismay. “Like, seriously!”
“It was a mistake,” she wailed.
“We all make mistakes,” Dati concurred, rubbing her back in circles.
“Not this kind!” I exclaimed vehemently.
“Really? Because I can remember someone being in a similar place,” Dati said in a sharp tone, giving me a knowing look.
I avoided her eyes as I became aware of the meaning behind them.
“None of us here are saints. What we need to do now is work out the best possible solution for this mess in a way that everyone can be happy,” she reasoned.
The sound of a car pulling up the front drive set Lucy in motion. She was on her feet in a jiffy and scrambling up the stairs. “Quick! Let’s go to my room…it’s my dad. I don’t want him to see me,” she spoke urgently.
We went after her, taking the stairs two at a time. Mr. Udosen isn’t exactly a sociable kind of person; in fact, the perfect word for him is forbidding. I’ve only seen him smile once; at Lucy’s twelfth birthday, when she beat up the class bully who was making a mess of her party. With that kind of demeanour, it’s a wonder she was still able to stay under his roof in this situation.
We spent some time in her room talking, before we snuck out and walked quickly through the main gates, expecting her father to call us back at any moment and grill us with ceaseless questions. You know how parents are; once any of their children does something really terrible, all his or her friends will automatically be subject to scrutiny and inquisitions. We used to have a neighbour like that, Mr. Takon. His daughter got pregnant and no one knew until she was almost in labour. This man went around the estate, questioning all her friends and asking them if that was the kind of disgrace they were planning to bring on their parents. Mine was worse because we lived next door; he paid us a long visit and not only did he warn my father to keep a closer eye on me, but suggested that it would be a good thing if I was transferred from Enugu back to Calabar. From then on, none of his daughters ever went out without a male escort.
We walked a short ways from their gate and waited for a keke-napep, those tricycles that have replaced motorbikes in this country. Neither of us spoke, each absorbed in our thoughts. I, for one, was debating with myself whether to speak what was on my mind or not. Seeing no way around it, I spoke.
“Why did you make that statement back there, at the house?” I asked, giving Dati a side-ward glance.
“This is where you assume I can read your mind, I.D,” she replied, facing me.
“You know what I’m talking about,” I insisted. “All that talk about making mistakes and all that.”
“You don’t make mistakes? Oh, I forgot. You’re Miss Perfect,” she remarked, smirking.
I was getting hot under the collar. Why was she speaking to me this way? “That’s not what I mean and you know it!” I spat.
“Then what do you me –”
“I told you about that incident in confidence! I’ve never told anyone else! Why did you have to go and say it like that? What if she’d asked you who had been in a similar situation? What would you have said?” I said in a near-shout.
“I would have told her the truth,” she answered quietly, looking me straight in the eye.
My lips parted in wonder as I stared at Dati. “Who are you? You have no regard for our friendship,” I declared angrily.
“And you should stop deceiving yourself. Like I said before, you’re not perfect!” she retorted.
“But I never said I was perfect!” I screamed. “Where is all this coming from?”
“From that place of friendship, Idara. You may never have said you’re not perfect, but you sure act like it! You walk around with your nose in the air most times, like some Miss Goody-Two-Shoes who can do no wrong.”
“What the –”
“Oh, let me finish!” she ordered, stunning me into silence. “Everyone falls at some point and it doesn’t hurt to let others see your scars. Not only does it show them you’re human, but they learn to rise again, just as you have.”
“Look who studied psychology,” I sneered.
“How typical, Idara. This is classic you! You’d rather die than admit you’re wrong! Going around, setting other people straight but not yourself. She made an error in judgment and slept with Obehi… So what? Did you not almost do the same?” Dati shrieked.
I recoiled instinctively, almost reaching out to clap my hands over her mouth. She must have guessed my intent because she gave me a very caustic glare.
“Don’t give me that wounded look,” she said. “Maybe if you’d told her what had happened, she wouldn’t be in this predicament.”
“So it’s now my fault, eh?”
“Call it what you will. I’m just saying that if you really say you’re her friend, you should have told her your story. That way, she wouldn’t feel so stupid. Stop protecting yourself in the face of another’s suffering.”
Stony silence followed her last words. I was so furious I didn’t see the car that rolled to a stop beside us.
A voice I hadn’t heard in five years came from behind the rolled down tinted side window of the Toyota Highlander. I stared into the face I’d once had a huge crush on but now terribly disliked so much, it bordered on hatred. Thinking of the exchange between Dati and me, and seeing his face so soon after, made all the feelings inside me roll into one huge mass of rage. I hawked a generous wad of saliva and phlegm in the back of my throat and –
“Osahon!” Dati cried out in surprise.
The liquid mass from my mouth landed splat on his cheek, just below his right eye, a mockery of the gradually fading smile on his lips. My friend stared at me in amazement, eyes wide.
“WHAT THE F –!” he bellowed.
“Don’t you dare utter that profanity!” I screamed. “Dare it, and I will scatter those dirty teeth of yours. This is all your fault! If you’d learned to zip that yeye trousers of yours and glue that lying, smelling mouth, all these wouldn’t have happened. I hope her father skins you alive. NONSENSE!”
Both of them gawked at me like I’d lost my marbles or something. I glowered at him, hand on hip, fuming. He turned and picked a tissue from a paper box on the dashboard and wiped the mess on his face. That action and the cold look he cast my way made me aware of just what I’d done. But before I could dwell too much on it, he reached for the door handle. As he put one foot on the ground, I gave a tiny yelp and sprinted off. I didn’t look back to ascertain whether the footsteps slapping the pavement behind me was Dati’s or his. I kept running for all I was worth; Usain Bolt would’ve envied me. Lungs burning and a painful stitch in my side, I slowed down to a jog and finally looked behind me. My friend was some metres away, out of breath and wheezing like a pregnant hippo. She leaned over as soon as she got to the spot I stood, and we panted together.
She was the first to get her breath back, and began with a giggle that built up into full-throated laughter, interrupted by a coughing bout. I joined in as we made a spectacle of ourselves right there on the street.
“Oh Lord! I.D girl! I didn’t know you had it in you,” she cried in delight. “That was fantastic! No, make that brilliant! Awesome!”
“Of…of course. That’s the kind of thing you like,” I rasped, unable to hide my pleasure. “But that wasn’t good sha.”
“Please don’t go all saintly on me now,” she hissed. “He had it coming.”
A keke came to a stop in front of us and we hurried to it.
“Bassey Duke,” Dati said, giving our destination.
“Duk. Enter,” the driver replied.
“Ifang?” she asked.
“Nko mbufo owo iba? For both of you? Seventy-seventy naira,” he said.
We boarded and as the keke trundled along, we recapped all that had happened and gave ourselves to mirth.
“Do you really think I should tell her what happened?” I asked.
“I think you should,” she answered. “It would really make her feel better.”
I nodded and made a mental note to call Lucy as soon as I got home and fix another visit.
“Do you mind coming with me?” I asked.
“What are friends for?” was her reply.
Written by Eketi Ette, @Ketimay