A friend in need
Tayo was completely mystified. The situation he thought he was getting over was now getting him down. It was like re-opening a healing wound and adding salt and pepper. He groaned in pain as he thought of the possible consequence of his refusal to succumb to Tolani’s request. From the little he knew about her, she was capable of making good her threats. ‘This burden is too heavy for me, Lord. Help me please.’ Tayo breathed a prayer.
There was nothing more both terrifying and frustrating as facing a blackmail. The frustration stemmed from the helplessness of the victim while the terror engendered from the threat of the blackmail. Should he give in? Or, should he just call her bluff and damn the possible consequence? Seems like a good option after all.
On Tolani’s side, she was afraid. In fact, she was very scared about it herself. Apart from knowing that it was wrong, she had read about what the aftermath effect of abortion would be on her emotionally and psychologically. She was sure she would never forgive herself if she went ahead with the process. The only way she could live with herself after the abortion was if she succeeded in blackmailing Tayo into getting involved. If he fell for it, she would go ahead, if he didn’t, she wouldn’t.
Tayo decided he was not going to send money for the abortion. If Tolani wanted to go on with it without him, she should; he was not ready to continue covering his sin with other sins. If she decided to make good her threat, she’d only be helping him make a confession he’d probably never have the courage to make himself.
He waited for the expiration of the deadline he was given before trying to call her. He tried time and again, but he couldn’t reach her. Each time he called, it was either her line didn’t go through, or when it did go through, she didn’t answer. He even went to her house on two occasions, but he was told she had moved without leaving a forwarding address. She didn’t show up at the company too till his internship was over.
Tayo had hasted back to school immediately after his internship, before going home for the 3-month break from school. He hasn’t heard from her since then. He just kept wondering what could have happened to her? ‘Did she eventually go ahead with the abortion? If she did, was it successful?’ He seriously doubted the truth of that. If it went as expected, she would have contacted him.
He feared that something had gone wrong. ‘Maybe there were complications,’ he thought. ‘Maybe—God forbid—it even took her life.’ He was frightened into tears. Haunted by his past, he had since lived every day in fear and torment unconsciously expecting a bad news from anywhere, and at any moment. That explains why he had been locking himself up since his return to school.
He had taken time to document the whole incidence in his journal. Writing his experience helped him feel better. I closed the diary and took a deep breath. I actually had to take another very deep breath before I could say a word.
“So, that means you have not heard from her since then,” I said inquiringly.
“I haven’t.” His reply was terse.
“You should give her a call,” I suggested. “At least, try to find out where she is and how she’s doing.”
“I never stopped trying, Femi. She doesn’t answer my calls. I don’t want to text her because I’m afraid the phone might not be with her. I don’t want to implicate myself.”
“Well, how about calling her with someone else’s number? Here’s my phone, you can call her with this.” I offered.
Tayo took the phone and typed in Tolani’s number immediately. They were so close that he knew the number by heart.
The phone had not rung for long before it was answered.
“Hello, who is on the line please?” The voice from the other end asked.
An awkward silence followed and you could have heard a pin drop. Unquestionably, it wasn’t Tolani who answered the call. Before their break up, they talked about many things but for no particular reasons, they hardly talked about each other’s family. Looking back now, one can only guess that they probably had more interesting topics to hash out. However, on one or two occasions, they did talk about their families.
Tayo remembered Tolani speaking of herself as the youngest child and only daughter among her parents’ children. She had three other siblings who were all married. Tayo was more convinced that the person whose voice he just heard wasn’t Tolani, neither could it have been any of her siblings’ because—as much as he knew—she had no female sibling.
He kept mute, listening to hear if he could recognize the voice. Since the phone was on loudspeaker, I listened too, although I’d never met her or heard her voice.
“Hello?” The voice said again. “Who am I speaking with?” This time around, it was obvious that the he didn’t know the person, and most likely, she didn’t know him too. Somehow, I agreed that it wasn’t Tolani’s voice. The woman sounded more elderly, like she was in her thirties or something like that, whereas I expected Tolani to be in her early twenties.
I collected the phone from Tayo when I noticed that he was disappointed that it was not Tolani who answered the call.
“Hello, good afternoon ma. I’m sorry for keeping you waiting.” I apologized quickly.
“That’s okay, good afternoon.” She said forgivingly.
“I’d like to speak with the owner of this line, please.” I pushed my luck.
“You still haven’t identified yourself.” She said softly.
“Oh, again, I’m so sorry. I’m a friend to the owner’s friend.” My reply was evasive and equivocal, hoping she wouldn’t press any further.
Unfortunately, she did when she said, “If you don’t mind my asking, which of her friends exactly are you a friend to?”
‘Don’t mention my name!’ Tayo gestured from where he stood. I gave him a no-other-choice look. ‘Think of something else,’ He seemed to be saying.
“Tayo,” I answered rashly, ignoring his pleas. Pained but unoffended, he placed his hands on his head as we awaited her reply.
“Hmm, Tayo’s friend.” She hesitated a little further before continuing, “So, how can I help you.”
“We’re calling to ask after Tolani.” Tayo drew closer.
“Did you say ’we’? That means Tayo is there with you. Well, Tolani is fine, but I’m sorry you can’t speak with her now.”
“I get it, but could you please just let her know that Tayo wanted to speak with her. He’s been worried since they parted ways and he is really sorry for everything that happened.” Tayo kept nodding as I spoke.
“Is that really why you are calling?” The woman asked in a surprised tone.
“Sincerely. That is why we called. We’d be grateful if you could even tell us how and where we can find her.” Tayo seemed to disagree with that idea but there was nothing he could do seeing I had said it already.
“In that case, I’m going to have to call you back much later because I’m in the middle of something right now. Plus, I’ll have to discuss with her first.” She said.
“We understand and appreciate your efforts and kindness ma. Thank you very much.”
“You are welcome.” But just before she ended the call, she added, “I’m wondering why you are the one doing the talking for Tayo.”
“I’m right here.” Tayo said quickly.
“Oh. Congratulations, Tayo! You are having a boy. Bye for now.” And the line went dead before we could give expression to our thoughts.
“A boy?!” We chorused together.
To Be Continued