She hadn’t slept in two consecutive nights and as a result of the endless tears added to her insomnia, her eyes were bloodshot and almost swollen shut. Her mother had prodded and inquired but she gave no information more than “I’m having a tough time right now and I need to be by myself for some time and no, it’s not Kamal”. She rolled off her bed and unto the floor and crawled into the bathroom where she dropped on the toilet bowl. As she emptied her bladder, she wished her shame, pain, and agony would empty with the waste exiting her body.
That she could tell what happened was absolute truth but that she could explain how it happened was what she didn’t think was truth because she just couldn’t explain it. She had tried over and over again in the last looks-like-forever hours to recollect the details of the incident but over and over again, she failed and more and more this frustrated her. She remembered herself standing at the door all furious one minute and the next, she found herself sliding out from under a man who had once been her best friend’s, naked.
She knew he wasn’t drunk, well, she thought he wasn’t but, she couldn’t convince herself that she hadn’t been drunk and even if she had, she didn’t think she had been that drunk. Drunk enough to sleep with her best friend’s ex-fiancé, drunk enough sleep with the same man she had advised her friend to leave, drunk enough to betray her friend, and Kamal.
Ah, Kamal! She thought. She knew she was doomed already. As if he knew something had gone terribly wrong, his call had come in just as she was struggling to cover her shame with her strewn-all-over-the-room garments and she had not been able to lie to him; she never had been able to, not even with the vast land mass and oceans between them. Elsie had never heard him express himself in such a manner as he had done that unfortunate night; the pain, ache and disappointment he felt, he spoke in the loudest silence ever, and then, he hung up. That end-of-call tone rang in her head endlessly ever since.
Elsie got up and trudged back into the bedroom, the weight of her mistake weighed heavily on her frame. She stopped in front of the mirror and shuddered at the image it reflected to her – a slut, a traitor, a liar. She stared on, wanting to yell at the top of her lungs that she wasn’t what she was looking at. That she hadn’t done whatever she did, deliberately. That she did not mean to betray Ezinne nor Kamal. That she was sorry. But, she could not find her voice, it was stuck some place deep down in her stomach and she just couldn’t bring it out plus, her tongue was tied to the roof of her mouth – tied with shame.
The image of who she had now become haunted her and she burst into a fresh bout of tears. Elsie moved to the edge of her bed and she allowed herself fall into the soft sheets, burying her face in them as she wailed. She wanted to pray but couldn’t find the words to say to God; she felt even He was presently utterly disappointed and not on her side.
She felt the warmth of a loving touch on her foot.
“Mother, leave me alone, please!” she screamed into the mattress.
It wasn’t her mother.
Elsie felt her heart stop beating in her chest at the recognition of whose voice she’d heard.
She turned over in the bed and fixed her gaze above the head of the best friend she had ever had. For the first time in their almost-four-years of being the best of friends, Elsie couldn’t look at her friend in the eyes; they felt like a hunter’s knife cutting through her heart.
“Ezinne…” she was almost whispering.
The skin on Ezinne’s forehead was creased with worry; her eyes began to fill with tears at the sight of her friend looking disheveled and ghost-like.
“What on earth is wrong with you? You look like you’re dying”
Her friend blinked back the tears in her eyes. “Elsie, talk to me”
Elsie’s gaze dropped to the floor.
“You didn’t even tell me that you were taking a leave. It was SJ that told me that you came in late yesterday morning to ask for a sick leave”
Elsie nodded. “Chairman is not around”
“He said you asked for a week. I tried calling your number endlessly but it didn’t go through so I called mummy last night, she was the one who told me”
Elsie said nothing.
“You know I would have been here as soon as she told me but I had promised to babysit my nieces for the night”
Elsie tried to force a smile. It didn’t work. “It’s fine”
Ezinne moved closer to her friend and made to lift her face with her hand. Elsie gently dodged from her reach.
“Nne, what happened to you now?” Ezinne’s voice quivered with emotions.
Tears rolled down Elsie’s cheeks. She lifted her hands to her face and covered it with her palms.
“I’m sorry” she sobbed, her voice muffled by her palms and tears.
“I’m sorry, Ezinne… ”
“You’re sorry? That you’re not able to talk right now?” Ezinne shrugged, “It’s alright, there’s nothing to be sorry about. Thank God it’s weekend, I have all of the time to spend with you”
Elsie shook her head vigorously and wailed; her heart ached beyond what she could find words to express. The innocence of her friend’s love set fire in her bosom and it burned really hot.
She dropped her hands onto her laps and quieted down. “You should go”
Ezinne hissed. “Go? Where to? If I hear say I go!”
“What is it El? Are you sick? Is it Kamal? Who died? Talk to me, your silence is eating me up!”
Elsie shifted to the edge of the bed, got on her feet and walked slowly to the other side of the room where her friend’s back was turned to. She leaned her own back against the wall and took a long, deep breath to steady herself.
“I slept with Obinna”. The words rolled out of her mouth just as her friend turned to face her.
Their eyes locked for a split second before Elsie shifted gaze again. It hurt too much to look into her friend’s eyes.
It took several minutes before either of them spoke.
“You did what?!” Ezinne’s eyes flashed with pain.
“Thursday night in my office”
Elsie’s voice broke and she slid down into a squat. “I’m sorry”
Ezinne squeezed her eyes shut and when she opened it just as the clock counted the ninetieth second, a tear slipped out one eye and was followed in quick succession by another from the other eye. She pushed herself to her feet, grabbed her bag from the top of the dresser and avoided Elsie’s sight as she walked out of the room.