Boma wondered how she would tell him. She did not want to hurt him. But inevitably she would hurt him whatever she did. She knew that.
If only there was a way out. A way that did not involve him hearing about she’d done.
If only she hadn’t done it at all. She should have resisted. She should have said no. She should have insisted on the first, and very weak, no she’d said.
Too late for if onlys, she reminded herself with a sigh. If only, no matter how many times she wished it, wouldn’t help her. Not now. Not that it ever did.
But… if only she’d meant her no.
Tonye did not like that he had to tell her. But he had to. This was something that could not be hidden. She would know whether he told her or not. She would know sooner than later. But by God, he didn’t want her to know. He didn’t want her to know and then be hurt.
For surely she will be hurt.
He should have been more careful. He should have insisted on caution, not given in to the lure of momentary pleasure.
But it was too late for should haves. What was done was done and now, the consequence was staring him in the face. The consequence that would soon stare her in the face soon.
But he didn’t want to hurt her.
When she entered, he looked up and then quickly looked away. Guilt tugged.
“Tonye, I did not think you’ll be home now.” Boma hesitated before she walked fully into the room. Her heart had picked up.
“I left work early.” He hadn’t been to work at all. But he couldn’t tell her that.
“Oh.” Boma set down her handbag, sat two chairs away from him. “Hope nothing’s matter? You’re not ill, are you?”
“Um, no. Not ill.” Tonye gave his head a shake. “You’re home early too. Why is that?”
“I did not go to work at all. I took an excuse and went… somewhere else.” Boma wanted to get it over with. “I have something to tell you, Tonye.”
“You do?” He looked at her now.
Her expression was troubled.
“What do you want to tell me?” Then he thought maybe he should tell her first. It was after all very important and no longer avoidable. “I too have something to tell you. Something very important.”
“Oh.” Boma was surprised. “What is it?”
“I am sorry.” He shot her a quick beseeching stare. “I did not plan for it to happen. It wasn’t meant to happen… but it did.”
“What happened?” His words baffled her, so Boma frowned.
“I… she… Emem, she’s pregnant.”
“She is? I did not know that. How did you…” Boma stopped and stared.
He was looking directly at her now. His expression was guilt-ridden.
“She is pregnant for you? Emem is pregnant for you?”
He dropped his gaze. Guilt and shame ripped at him. “Yes. It wasn’t meant to happen. I… we were only having fun. We couldn’t resist. You were away so long and we… I was lonely and she came around… she came around regularly and I couldn’t resist. Neither of us could. It happened several times. We were careful until the last time. Uh… now, she’s pregnant.”
“I see.” Boma murmured and sat back.
Since she didn’t say anything else for more than a minute, Tonye raised his head and looked at her. She was just staring into space. Her expression was thoughtful.
“I am sorry, Boma. I didn’t mean for this to happen. We haven’t been together since you returned. We wanted to put it behind us, let it go and move on… but this happened. I am sorry.”
“Maybe you should not be sorry.” Boma met his anxious gaze. “Maybe you should not be apologising.”
“What… why do you say that, Boma?”
“I too did something… with Bassey.”
“Bassey?” Tonye echoed the name in a sharp voice. “What did you do with Bassey?”
“Same thing you did with Emem. Only we were careful all through.”
“What?” Tonye sprang up. “You slept with Bassey? You slept with my friend?”
“I did. And you slept with my friend too.” Boma shrugged her shoulders. “I too was lonely while I was away, and Bassey was always there. He kept me company regularly and soon, we started to feel stuffs and inevitably, it happened. Since we enjoyed the first time, we decided to do it again, and then again.”
“You… Boma, how could you? You cheated on me with my own friend?”
“As did you, Tonye.”
“That is different! My actions were different.”
“How were they different, Tonye? Are they different because you are a man?” Boma let out a short laugh. “Please, Tonye, don’t be stupid. You cheated and I cheated, and we both did so with our mutual friends. There is absolutely no difference. What is good for the goose is sauce for the gander.”
Tonye stared at her. “Is that how you see it? Have you no shame at all?”
“Shame? No. I am not ashamed. I felt guilty, but even that is no more. Not when I now know that you and I did same thing, and obviously at same time.” Boma stood up, picked her handbag. “You shouldn’t look so self-righteously enraged, Tonye. What I’m guilty of, you are too. We both did wrong and neither of us has a right to condemn the other.”
“You are a woman, Boma. You should have more morals.”
“Morals have no gender, Tonye. We are all expected to have morals, whether we are man or woman. And whether man or woman, we are all equally susceptible to falling into temptation. It is part of our human nature.” Boma smiled a little. “I am sorry though that I hurt you. I did not mean to. I did not want to. But what is done is done.”
“But with my own friend, Boma? Why with Bassey?”
“I… because…” Tonye stopped. “This feels so wrong. I never expected it of you.”
“Me neither. I never expected you will sleep with my friend. I guess we both surprised each other. I guess we are both not meant to be.”
“And you and Bassey are meant to be?”
“Maybe not.” Boma shrugged. “Sorry I hurt you. I say it once again because that was never my intention. But it’s done now and I am relieved I have no need to be burdened with guilt. I will go now. I will make plans to come pick my things later. Offer my felicitations to Emem. I would, but I guess we are not as friendly as I thought we were.”
“So, you are going to Bassey?”
“Not to him. Someplace elsewhere. But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t see him, if he wants to see me.”
“You disappoint me, Boma. What you’ve done disappoints me. I expected better of you. He’s my friend and even if he were not, as a woman, you should know better.”
“Oh, save the self-righteous speech, Tonye!” Boma hissed, impatient now. “You did same thing I did and you do not hear me judging you. You think you should not be judged because you are a man? But you are wrong. Sin, like morals, has no gender. When committed, the sinner is guilty whatever their gender. We both did wrong and we both have to bear the consequences of our actions. So, stop acting like some last century lord and master, and accept your own guilt.”
She walked to the door.
“I’ll come back for my things. Take care of you, Tonye.”
When she went through the door, Tonye lowered back into his chair. He was frowning. He could not help the bites of disappointment. He had been feeling guilty, even sorry that he would have to leave her. But now all he felt was disappointed… at her. She’d betrayed him, and with his own friend.
And she felt no remorse at all.
That, above all, was what disappointed him. She didn’t feel any remorse, or shame.
A woman should know better. Women were created to know better.
Were they? His conscience suddenly asked him. Were women really created to know better? Should Boma have known better when he didn’t, and just because she was a woman?
Where they not all human and equal?
And was not what is good for the goose really sauce for the gander?
Tonye thought about it. He thought about it a long, long time.
Double standards, so wrong.