Anne knew that travelling alone with her three boys would be very stressful for her. Her husband, Sola, was going to meet up with her in Cardiff central train station so that they could go to his sister’s home in Swansea for the weekend. It was Friday afternoon rush-hour and everyone seemed to be in a mad rush to get somewhere. There was the initial one hour wait for the taxi she had booked the previous day. ‘Going away for the weekend?’ asked the cabdriver, without any apology for turning up late.
‘Obviously’ mumbled Anne as she strapped the kids into their seats. Her one year old son, Tobi, was in no mood to sit quietly and decided to start crying at the top of his voice.
By the time they reached Paddington station, London to board the train to Cardiff, Anne was at breaking point. As she pulled the baggage and tried to keep hold of her twin sons and little Tobi her mobile phone fell from her jacket pocket.
‘Oh, for goodness sake’ she sighed. As she reached to pick it up another hand reached out and picked the phone for her.
‘Let me’ said a voice. She looked up and saw a face from her past. It was Soji. Time rolled back for Anne as she stood up and looked into his face.
Soji was her first love. They had attended the same Federal Government College in Nigeria and had promised to love each other forever. A wave of emotions ran through her as she smiled and looked at him in amazement. After the usual ‘what are you doing here?’ questions, he asked if the boys were hers and where their dad was. It was the way he kept looking at Anna that made her feel uncomfortable. She kept looking round, as if she wanted someone to save her from Soji. Thankfully, her train was announced so she bid him a hasty goodbye and started to walk away.
As she was about to step on to the train she heard his voice behind her again. ‘Can I call you, Anne? What’s your number?’ She didn’t hesitate to give him her number. He was just an old friend now: a blast from the past.
The phone calls were innocent enough. Anne found she enjoyed talking to Soji about things that had happened in the last ten years. Soji was married and living in Bristol with his wife and daughter. Within a week they started sending each other emails and funny jokes, but Anne didn’t think there was any need to tell her husband about her long-lost friend. Within weeks Anne felt like she had never lost contact with Soji.
A few weeks later, Anne’s husband came back from work holding a piece of paper. ‘What’s this?’ he asked.
‘Let me see’ said Anne, as she took the paper from Sola. He looked rather upset and as Anne read through, her heart sank. It was an email she had forwarded to him. It was originally from Soji and it contained a hilarious joke about a man who forgot his wife’s birthday. He had added at the bottom ‘I’ve never forgotten yours, and I never will’. Anne hadn’t remembered to delete this part when she forwarded it to Sola. How was she going to explain that there was nothing going on?
Her husband knew Soji’s name and who he was so there was no denying that he was her old flame. He did not wait for any explanations but stormed out of the room and left Anne wondering what to do. She felt angry that he had jumped to the wrong conclusions. She hadn’t done anything wrong!
Was it really innocent?
Is it possible to be friends with an old flame? More often than not these friendships are begun in secret. Anything done in secret has the potential of being problematic because secretive behaviour tends to betray trust. When something is discovered it raises the question as to what else might have occurred. Marriage is a place for transparency—not secrecy.
Was Anne naïve in thinking all Soji wanted from her was friendship? Friendship with the opposite sex, especially if it is with an old girl or boyfriend, can rapidly move from friendship to passion. A friendship that becomes passionate is then difficult to reverse or stop. She knew she still had feelings for Soji but thought she could control it as friendship.
Friendships conducted via email and telephone can easily take on a flirtatious or seductive quality. No one can deny that people tend to be bolder and more expressive when using these forms of communication. Whatsapp, snapchat and other social media platforms make it so easy to start innocent enough lines of communication, but if one is not careful one end up in an emotional affair, even if not a physical one.
Anne was able to convince Sola that her friendship with Soji was innocent and he believed her. She stopped emailing Soji, deleted his phone number from her phone and removed him from her Facebook page. Her husband was reassured that there was nothing illicit going on and life went back to normal.
Was that the end?
The following week when Anne went for her lunch break at work she headed straight for her local Tesco store where she bought a sandwich and crisps. As she headed to the counter to pay, she saw him standing by the sweets isle. Their eyes met and he smiled. Her heart leapt in her chest. It wasn’t her fault that he had business to do in her city of Reading every Wednesday afternoon. She wasn’t doing anything wrong, she thought. They were just friends.
Writer – Abi Adeboyejo lives in Birmingham, UK, with her two children and her fabulous man, who by the way, prefers that his wife writes down her thoughts than listening to her musings on everything.