EDITED BY VICTORIA OKON
“Are you ready? Zora!! Are you ready?!!”.
That was Zainab screaming at me over the phone. Nothing ever changes with Zainab – loud, boisterous and confident. I should also add that Zainab is exceptionally stubborn, and she was not going to let me change the conversation unless I responded in the affirmative. I found it difficult to respond on cue, which of course, made it fun for her.
But I was ready… and excited.
Our mutual best friend, Cynthia, had just returned after completing her master’s program in Digital Media in the United Kingdom. Zainab and I had spent the past two weeks working to hold a surprise party for her. Personally, I could not wait to see her, I truly missed her.
Zainab, Cynthia and I had grown up together. We met in primary school and eventually went to the same secondary school where we developed a closer bond. Even after we got admissions into different higher institutions for our first degree, we always took out time to further strengthen the relationship over the holidays.
Although, I had just moved to Lagos state to start my new job while Zainab had decided to stay after completing her NYSC programme. Cynthia, on the other hand, had left for the UK after graduating, but we all kept in touch one way or another. Apart from a couple of arguments and tears, we still remained best friends.
We picked Cynthia up from her new apartment, and we drove round Lagos for over two hours. Oh yes! We were loud and proud. We gorged on pizza, ice cream, cakes – it was my cheat day!
Late in the evening, we were back in Cynthia’s house, reminiscing.
“I’m so happy to see you again, Cynthia. I know you got plans to secure the bag, and I can’t wait to get my usual ten percent”, said Zainab. I laughed, playfully shoving her shoulder. Cynthia, smiling mischievously, dipped her hand in her bag, as she slowly struggled with something.
“What are you doing?” Zainab asked. “Are we safe?”
Cynthia pulled her left hand from her bag. “Haha. How I made you look!”. Zainab screamed, covering her mouth. I grabbed Cynthia’s hand to take a closer look. It was a diamond ring, large enough to be expensive and excellently designed to look specially ordered. I hugged her tight.
“I didn’t even see this coming. How? When did this happen?” I asked.
“He proposed when I returned. I was thrilled – like you won’t believe it.” Zainab and I exchanged looks.
“Who proposed?” Zainab had stopped shouting and jumping at this point.
“It’s Ishmael”. I was stunned.
Mr Ishmael Akintunde used to be Cynthia’s lecturer while she studied for her first degree in Nigeria. Although he had only taught her for a single semester during her second year, he had spent the following two and a half years going after her, promising to leave his family – a wife and three children – to marry her.
Cynthia had stayed away from him and we all thought the issue was over, until his name resurfaced again last year. Cynthia had let it slip that Ishmael was also in London for a course, and they had reconnected while he was there. That night, Zainab and I did a little snooping around… a short visit to his Facebook page revealed to us that he was still married. Cynthia had tried to defend the relationship, telling us that she deserved to be loved, and he had promised to take care of her. We screamed, cried, pleaded, begged her to understand that she was about to break a happy home.
Smiling widely, Zainab hugged Cynthia. “I’m so happy, baby girl. Let’s do this! What’s the next step? I have not been a part of this sort of thing before”.
Right there, I realised that I had been cut off. Cynthia had needed support, someone to make her feel better about her choices and she had run to Zainab. Growing up, I had always believed that we were best friends because we shared the same values; a clear understanding about right and wrong; or in this case, how to not hurt or cheat others.
These were my best friends, but I also realised that our interests and ideologies had varied.
I had to decide either to support my friend of many decades or not…