Elsie started working in this company long before I joined. I think she worked for five years before I joined in 2014. The first day I was introduced, she was the girl who made the biggest impression on me. When she didn’t get my name, she asked HR to repeat it. After the introduction, she said, “Welcome here. It’s a beautiful place and I hope you’ll enjoy working here. In case you need something or have questions about something, feel free to talk to me about it.” So during lunch, I sat next to her and we talked. She gave me a little bit of company history and gave me some tit-bits about anyone who walked in—who they were, what they do, and a little bit of their character.
We became friends right from day one. When it was lunchtime and I wasn’t around, she would wait until I come before we go together. My relationship with most of the workers ended right after the day’s work but not with Elsie. We talked after work. We met on weekends and went out together. She invited me to her church and I went. I loved her church so much I went to her church often than I went to my own church. You could call us sisters and you wouldn’t be wrong.
A year later, I came to work and saw a wedding invitation under the keyboard of my computer. I quickly opened it and saw that it was coming from Elsie. I rushed to her office and slapped her back: “How could you keep something like this from me? Are you crazy” She laughed and later said, “Shhhh, don’t scream it out loud. You’re the only one who knows for now. I’m yet to invite the company as a whole so don’t make noise about it.” At lunch, we talked about it. She said, “But you always knew I was going to get married to George right?” I responded, “Yes I knew it but I didn’t think it would happen this soon.” She said, “Yeah it did.”
I asked what role she wanted me to play. I asked where she wanted me to go on her behalf. We met on weekends to run errands together. Everything to help her have a beautiful wedding. On her wedding day, she assigned me to the drinks. She said, “You’re tough. Make sure we don’t serve a section more than they ought to be served. And don’t give chance to other people to steal the drinks.” I was like the soldier on her wedding day, standing on my feet, doing my bit to ensure everything goes according to plan. It was the reason I missed the photoshoot session but the only shot I appeared in it, Elsie framed it and hang it on the wall of their hall. What a friend I had in Elsie.
Two years later, it was my turn to get married. Elsie was the soldier on my wedding day. She didn’t even wear her heels because she was always running around doing what soldiers do to install calm in a rowdy place. When someone walked to me asking for something I told them, “Go to Elsie.” Even family members had to go through Elsie before they could get whatever they wanted. I have two brothers. I’m the only woman. She became the sister I never had. Even my mom called her my sister.
We started as single women. We became married women who had commitments to their husbands. People say women change towards their friends when they get married but that didn’t happen to us. Elsie would call me in the night and tell me, “Opana is angry ooo so he didn’t eat the food I cooked. What should I do to calm him down?” I would answer, “Eat the food yourself. By the time he calms down and starts looking for his food, you would have eaten it. That would make him angry again. You will win.” We’ll laugh about it. We’ll learn from each other. We’ll share what works and what doesn’t. We were each other’s support system.
And then I got pregnant.
It was the first time I was getting pregnant so a lot of things were new to me. At first, it was like a sickness. I always had a feeling of nausea. I became weak and slept often. I even slept in the office. When I finally tested and got to know that I was pregnant, the pregnancy was over two months old. I was too sick to even be happy about it. I kept the news to myself. Elsie saw the change in me right from the beginning. She found me sleeping in the office and said, “Uziee nono. By this time she’s pregnant ooo.” I said, “That would have been good news? I’m not pregnant but always weak. I don’t even know what is wrong with me again.” She retorted, “Abi you don’t sleep at night. Raising legs up and pushing your buttocks up, why won’t you end up sleeping in the office?”
That was Elsie being Elsie.
One early morning, I cornered her in the office and told her that I was pregnant. She said, “And you’re now telling me? You think I don’t know that you’re pregnant? I even asked you and you said no. I thought you’ll never tell me so why are you telling me now?” There was a cocktail of anger and disappointment in her voice when she spoke. I told her, “Honestly I didn’t know from the start. When you made mention of it, I was clearly unaware. I got the confirmation a few days ago.” She chuckled and walked over me.”
I was lost. “How could this make her angry?” For the first time in so many years I’d been in the office, Elsie went to lunch without me. I went to her office to call her. I thought we could talk about things extensively when we go to lunch. I got to her office and she said, “I’m full. I’d already eaten.” She didn’t even look at my face. I walked in, sat next to her, trying to crack jokes to make her laugh. She said, “Please, I have work to do around here. Would you excuse me?”
“Ah! What has come over this girl? Is it just about the pregnancy or there’s something else?”
Everyone told me to give her space. “She’ll come around, don’t worry. She’s used to being the first person to hear the news of your life that’s why she’s disappointed that you didn’t tell her right from the start.” My husband said. I calmed down around her. All my text messages to her went unanswered. She didn’t return my missed calls too so I stopped checking up on her. Days rolled into weeks. Weeks into a month. Nothing changed. I made my mother call her to ask what the issue was about. She told my mother that we are fine and that nothing is wrong between us.
My pregnancy got heavier. It got me sick often. There were days I didn’t go to work because I was so sick I couldn’t lift myself up. I sent her messages telling her I was sick and couldn’t come to work. She read the messages and Ignored me. In my last trimester, I was tired very often. I ignored her completely and concentrated on myself until I gave birth. Almost everyone from work sent their congratulatory messages. I was waiting for Elsie’s. We could be fighting. We could even not be friends but a simple “congratulation” shouldn’t take friendship. She didn’t send the message. Some group of people from the office came to visit, she didn’t come.
That was when I realized it was deeper than I thought.
When I was about to resume work, it got me thinking. I didn’t know how I was going to face her after everything. “Would I see Elsie and pass by? Can I stay in the office all day and not talk to her? How is the friendship going to be like? How’s everyone going to see us?” I returned to work and everyone who saw me was happy to see me. Her office was the first place I visited. I greeted her and the lady she shares the office with responded. She didn’t respond. The lady winked at me and I left.
Later that day the lady told me the things Elsie had been telling her: “She thinks you hid your pregnancy from her because you thought she will harm the pregnancy spiritually. She’s also bitter about a lot of things but I believe it’s sheer jealousy. Just days ago she said you came into her life just to take away the grace in her life. Her pastor has confirmed it and she had had numerous dreams about it. Stop pushing it. That girl isn’t going to be friends with you again.”
I was shocked! “Elsie said all that?” I asked. She responded, “You don’t want to know all the things she had said.”
I told my husband about it. I told my mother about it. They both said I should ignore her. My mom added, “If someday she comes around trying to be friends again with you, don’t accept it. Pretend you don’t know her. She never happened in your life. That’s how it should be going forward.
It’s hard for me to treat someone I call a sister this way. She walks past me every day and it cut my heart like a blunt knife cutting through a piece of meat. It hurts to see us degrade in this manner. All because I didn’t tell her about my pregnancy from the initial stage or there’s more to it? Should I continue pursuing her? To be honest, I’m not fine whenever I see her and walk past her as if she is a total stranger. We may not be friends but at least we can say hello to each other. What do I do to solve a problem like Elsie?