Parties could be fun for some people but for others like Andrew Akande, who considered it a chore. It could be boring and a waste of time when compared to the many other activities he could have invested in productively. He was on his way to a party for the wife of Chief Idowu, one of the department’s top client.
Although he had another family engagement scheduled for the same time, a short appearance was better than non-attendance which could be termed rude. However, it was one account they could not afford to lose, and if being at the party was what was needed, he doubted it would not cost him much to attend.
Ever since the account and other series of linked accounts came into his books, his portfolio had moved from average to a high performing. The monthly meetings that were once the worst time of the month became something to look forward to with excitement.His career looked great and the few times he had doubts about taking the role and not going to work at his father’s company were over.He was in the right place at the right time. It was a great feeling when all your team were pulling their weight and not just you alone.
A while ago, he had made every staff go through the report profitability preparation. But for reasons he could not explain, he found himself calling on Lana frequently. The girl was good at her job, too good that he knew someone else in his shoes would feel threatened. But he was on a mission to groom his team to be managers who could make and take decisions responsibly.
Taking Lana to the management profitably meeting and her excellent presentation was an indication that his hard work was not in vain. Currently moving on to another staff he saw management potential, starting the grooming process was something they never liked but knowing somewhere down their career line they would thank him for the opportunity and training he’d given them.
He got into his Prado Jeep dressed in a black suit with a tuxedo. The white ruffled shirt was the closest he could get to the 1950’s vintage look thanks to his friend he runs a male wear boutique “Suit Place.” He would never have been able to pull the look.
Driving into the Saturday night traffic, he headed towards Lekki, an upscale neighbourhood on the island where the event was taking place. He slotted in Philip Craige and Dean’s worship collection enjoying the uplifting music as his thoughts wandered.
It’s been weeks after the profitability management weekend retreat.He chuckled when he remembered the look on her face at being found out the name she used behind his back. At the retreat, he had tried to call her phone but discovered she left it behind on their table. And there was the phone ringing with flashlights as she had placed it on silent mode in front of him with the name “Buffalo,” like one in a trance, he picked the phone and redialed the number again to be sure nut there was the name. Alas! It was not a mistake.
The whole incident was both incredibly amusing and humbling. Why that animal? What did he have in common with a buffalo? How did she come to that conclusion? He did not fool himself to believe he was the friendliest boss. But being a young one and did not want to be taken for granted, he built an exterior that required them to jump at every command, and give in to his orders and requests without any form of resistance or argument. He created an atmosphere of fear that demanded obedience. He knew it was not the best, but it was achieving the desired results. Other than their names he had no clue to who his colleagues were.
Seeing the name that day, gave him a lot to think about over the weekend. In addition to what he already knew about how dangerous a buffalo is, he found out on Wikipedia; the adult buffalo’s horns are its characteristic feature, and they have fused bases, forming a continuous bone shield referred to as “boss.”
The whole incident made him reconsider his managerial style and worked on a better way of relating to his team members without losing his self-respect.On the contrary, the change brought better output on staff performance and a deep respect that was genuine and not out of fear. There were more smiles and happy faces. He knew about them beyond the job, and the information helped in relating to them and their work.
Also, he now had a smile on his face coming to work knowing that he had a great team working for him and the department interest. Whenever he called for staff, he found three or more others offering to help out, none shrinking from taking challenging tasks or giving excuses.He could not have been more thankful to Lana for opening his eyes to a self-evaluation. He wondered what she had saved on her phone now hoping it wouldn’t be Buffalo.
Walking into the venue, Andrew scanned looking for an empty table, but He saw someone waving him to come over. He wasn’t sure who she was although there was a slight resemblance to Peju. He walked to the table and once he heard the voice he knew it was Peju Phillips and the other lady was Lana.
Andrew smiled as he said hello still confused why they were looking different but horribly lovely at that too. He tore his gaze from Peju to Lana and in an instant lost his breath. It was like a mighty had knocked him over. It was like he was seeing her for the first time. He knew Lana was pretty all the ladies at work outdid themselves which was normal but today, he could not recall seeing anyone this beautiful. She was a goddess. Everything about her was perfect.
“What drink would you like a drink?” he was brought out of his reverie when a waiter asked him.“Champagne will do. Thank you”. He picked the glass offered to him.Lana smiled at him and continued reading a message on her cell phone. An odd frown settled on her lovely face. He wondered what was so upsetting and if there was anything he could do to help out. Where that come from he asked himself. He must have gotten it bad. This looks must be doing crazy things to his brains.
“You look good ladies.” He complimented their looks.They both said Thank you. Peju conversed with him while Lana was still busy with her cell phone.
“I might need to take that from you.” He heard Peju say to her.
“It’s my uncle. He’s here and wants me to come over to their table because he wants to introduce me to some friends of his,” Lana replied not too happy.
“Go and see him rather than scowling into that phone,” Peju commanded.
“The friends of his he is referring to are prospective suitors. It is annoying how he seems to keep looking for one for me,” she hissed the words at Peju.
Andrew found her funny and chuckled which turned to a cough when she glared at him. He then offered to help.
“I could help you. He might lay low tonight when she sees you came with someone,” he meekly offered. How do ladies do that making a fully able bodied 6 foot three inches guy with six packs, cower in fear with just a glare?
Her eyes lit up. “You’ll do that?”
I nodded in affirmative.
“Let’s go. You have no idea how relieved I am,” she stated as she held my hands and dragged me along like an excited five-year-old.
We stood up and left to meet her uncle. And true to her words she had not exaggerated. There were two young men in their mid-thirties with him.
“Lana dear, you have to meet Deji Adesanmi and Peter Okon, they are partners at Dataflex, an IT company. Incredible young men, who are great at what they do, the only snag I say to them is that they are yet to have accounts with Maple Bank. Any business that matters in this city must bank with Maple Bank,” He laughed at his joke while Lana was forced to say some niceties to the young men and exchanged complimentary cards. I noticed how she cringed at her uncle’s introduction but quick not to miss the cue to take on a lead, a real sales person.
Her uncle had relaxed a bit when I mentioned being her boss at work, but that did not deter him from asking about my marital status and if I was interested in his niece. I almost sputtered out my drink, too shocked at his brashness to give a corrigible response.
“Take it easy on her. She is dealing with issues she is not even aware plagues her. I should not be discussing this with you but I like you, and my guts say you can be trusted,” he continued oblivious to my discomfort.
“Your niece is great at what she does. Her work is excellent. You need not worry she is capable of caring for herself,” I managed to blurt how considering my brain had decided to take a recess and leave me groping for words while I looked for an escape route.
“I hear that a lot,” he said drily.
“I brought her here to meet these young men as she hardly has time for her social life with the job” but see, he gestured towards her.
“All she does is networking and generating leads. She thinks only about her work. I should be worried because work does not put a family around you, work does not give you children work will not be around you when you are sick and lonely. Work is an aspect of your life, not all of it. Work does not remember you when you die, the family does. The passion she pursues the job at the price of her personal life is what gives me concern,” he finished, and I could feel the ache in his heart.
I had no words to either comfort or encourage him so I took a sip of my drink to fill in for the silence.
The moment I saw a familiar face, I used that as an excuse to escape back to my table leaving Lana with the guys. She did not appear to need help rather she looked more than capable exactly what I had told her uncle.
Back at my table, my eyes wandered to Lana and saw her talking to her uncle. Whatever it was I could see that she was furious.
I did not wish my enemy to be in the man’s shoes.
My opinion was he should leave his niece to navigate the waters of her life and relationships and not meddle in her affairs. She was not a child. She was an adult.
I went over our discussion. “He could trust me” that was some heavy burden placed on me. I was not sure I could trust myself
Lana came back and apologised profusely to me. You could tell she was embarrassed.
“Do you see what I meant with those his friends?”
“What did he say to you?” she asked changing the topic.
“Nothing just work,” I lied casually and cringed inside of me.
“He did not go on and on of how they needed to get me married like marriage was the freedom to live?”
“You wanted him to?” I threw back at her not wanting to keep lying.
“He must be growing old,” she grinned.
“Tell me does your uncle have children of his own and is he married?” I could not hold my curiosity.
“Now you sound like him,” she stated at a matter of fact.”Yes, he is married to a gorgeous lady, my cousins and I love dearly. She is our only aunt who looks like what we want to be. Classy, elegant, career driven, romantic and modern,” she counted on her fingers.
“Yes, he is married to a gorgeous lady, my cousins and I love dearly. She is our only aunt who looks like what we want to be. Classy, elegant, career driven, romantic and modern,” she counted on her fingers.
“Some qualities that is,” I commented amusedly.
How many children do they have together?
“None. They have done everything including In vitro fertilisation (IVF), but none has been successful. The good thing is they are happy and more in love than the others who have kids,” Lana spoke with an expression mirroring the pain and love.
“What about adoption?” I ventured to ask. In Africa, it used to be a taboo. Adoption is still a very tricky issue and not widely accepted as in the western world. An average African woman wants to bear her children and sees adoption as a stamp of failure rather than an opportunity to be the mother she longs to be.
“I don’t know what their decision is on that, but most of what I know are filters from conversations at family events.”
“It must be hard for them,” I said remembering the ache in his heart when he spoke about family.
“I imagine, but I am the unfortunate niece, the daughter he never had not that I am complaining, but he clucks around me like a mother hen. He has been at every event of my life, birthdays, visiting days at boarding school seizing every opportunity check me at the University. Graduation. His next goal is to get me married. It becomes a torture. I cannot introduce anyone to him without him thinking I am ready to make him a grand uncle. He is so much worse than my Dad,” Lana moaned at what others would give an arm to have a doting uncle.
“It is evident he loves you,”
“That is the only reason I take it easy on him,” she answered
“You mean what I saw was easy?” I feigned horror.
She laughed and shrugged. “Whatever.”
We settled to the served meal of Jollof rice with coleslaw, beans pudding popularly called Moin Moin and peppered chicken. There was also goat meat pepper soup.
“Drew I am very sorry I never got to apologise to you about the name issue.”
“Are we not done with that, I asked? It seemed some form of punishment would be needed to absolve her of this sin.
“I feel terrible about it. That was low of me,” she argued.
“It’s okay. I forgive you, but if you want your guilt assuaged why not have dinner with me on Friday after work?” What was that? I had never given it a thought, but it was out, and a favourable reply mattered to me.
“That’s an easy way to let me off the hook,” she teased.
“Should I be thinking of a more grievous penalty?”
“No – I am game with this one,” she retorted playfully.
“Any favourites?” I asked.
“No, any place you choose is okay,” she answered with indifference. What was I expecting that she would jump over the moon? Well, others might make a big deal to be on chum with the boss, but I could see with Lana that was not the case.
After the meal, Lana caught sight of someone, waiving she rose up to leave.
“There is Phil Idowu, the MD for Oil and Gas Limited, Let me go and say hello.”
“I’ll go with you,” I offered.
As we moved towards Phil, we met Peju on the way, and Lana pulled her telling her we were going to meet the MD Ideal Oil and Gas.
“You have not met him?” I asked surprised.
“No, never met him before,” she replied.
“Don’t you guys manage his accounts?” I asked perplexed.
“They are not the same. I handle Chief like you know and Lana, Ideal Oil and Gas. They are both independent of each other,” Peju explained.
Lana introduced both Peju and me to Phil.
Once he laid eyes on Peju, it was evident the guy was smitten. Phil’s attention was on her.
The girls and I stayed to chat a bit and could not ignore the way his eyes kept going back to Peju.
“We’ll leave you to your guest,” I said excusing my team and me.
“I’ll see you before you leave, he responded more to Peju than the rest of us.
Walking ahead of the girls, I could hear Lana asking her friend what happened there.
“I literally could feel the sparks between you both,” she commented although a whisper but was not lost to my ears.
We got back to our tables, and the girls continued as if I wasn’t there.
“Spill what happened there?” Lana commanded using her chin to point to the direction we just left.
“You two met before,” She went on interrogating her friend.
I watched on fascinated at the way they interacted. I did not know too much about women. It was just my younger sister and me who was a tomboy. Growing up she wanted to do anything and everything I did and better; from climbing trees, playing football to cycling. The moment you said activity was girly she backed up she wanted to do only the boys stuff and brag to me about it later. It continued into our teenage-hood. As we approached adulthood, she gradually dropped a lot but still punches me on the arm as a greeting, challenges me to a game of chess and tries to keep up with any new sport or activity I had picked.
It flashed through my mind that these women would be good for her. She needed female friendships and not the guys that surrounded her. Many times we were so comfortable with her that we forgot she was a female.
“No never met him before,” Peju replied.
“Gosh! Why am I not the one handling Ideal Oil and Gas? How come you never talked about him?” she asked Lana accusingly.
I don’t know why but I was very interested in her response.
“He is just a client. You seemed smitten by him. I never saw him in that light,” she answered nonchalantly.
I did not know I was holding my breath and was relieved by her response, ironically but same relief mirrored in Peju’s eyes. I was not the only one.
“He is handsome,” Peju commented dreamily.
“His accounts are attractive,” Lana said drily.
“Oh Please Lana don’t be a killjoy, this could be who I have been waiting for all my life.”
“I should be calling the wedding planner by tomorrow. It is too late to do so now,” she gave a lopsided grin.
“Be serious”, Peju begged.
“I am serious. You just met the guy 5 minutes!”
Lana had not finished when Phil came over to our table and requested if he could take Peju away.
“I have lost my friend,” Lana wailed as Peju walked away blinking at her friend like some secret code.
“That is a fast conclusion,” I observed. That was what I had been doing since we came back to our table.
Lana glanced at me with shock. “Oh my God! You were here the whole time,” she exclaimed closing her face with her two hands.
Should I have been somewhere else, the thought flashed
“He seems okay. I don’t think you need to worry,” I encouraged patting her hands now placed on the table.
Glancing at my watch, “I have to go!” I exclaimed.
“I am completely late for a family engagement. Probably won’t make it but I have to try.” I explained.
“Would you be okay by yourself or would you go with me and I drop you afterwards?” I inquired as I stood up to leave.
“Oh no but thanks. I will be okay,” she waved her hands.
“You sure?” I double checked with her.
As I walked away, I remembered to comment on her looks. She looked beautiful today.
I could see the raised eyebrows of surprise.
“Thank you sir” she stammered I mean Andrew.
“Andrew?” I inquired with raised eyebrows.
“No one called me that except my mother. While I had insisted on being called Drew, My parents stuck to the original version.”
“That’s your full name isn’t it?” She asked with a twinkle in her eyes as her left dimple was more prominent with the smile.
“I prefer calling people by their full name some abridged versions or nicknames has a way of hiding the true meaning of the name. There is so much in a name.
“Andrew is a lot better than Buffalo,” I teased.
She grimaced. “I thought you have forgiven me.”
“I have but not forgotten,” I winked.
I would tell you over dinner on Friday if you have not found out by then but now I have to run.”
“Or else Mother will be upset,” she concluded. “And thanks for making light my erred ways.
I groaned. “I have to make you promise never to bring it up again.”
“See you at work,” I said making my final exit.
It took my willpower to leave her alone that night.