‘Tight, Toned Tummy Tips’ is an article series for women who want to know how to develop their stomach muscles, decrease stomach fat and sculpt a strong, toned midriff … The post Tight, Toned Tummy Tips: Watch out for protein and fat intake appeared first on All 4 Women.
Paris – Dubai
The beginning of a work week could be both exciting and daunting for me depending on my weekend.There are some weeks I look forward to going to work supercharged and motivated and other times there is no stimulation that I often wondered if I would make it to the end of the week. However, I lived through it, survived and even triumphed. And today was one of those days.I was not eager to resume work as I dreaded seeing my boss. Questions of what the working relationship would be like after our Friday dinner date went awry. To complicate issues, it was my week to work on the reports so I would be working closely with him this week without the luxury of staying out of his way.
The worry which induced insomnia leaving me looking drained that my colleagues were quick to ask if I was ill over the weekend. That would have been the perfect excuse to be out of the office and not have to confront the unease I felt. But being one to go over issues headlong I guess I had to face my fears and move on.
We got into the frenzy of meetings, reports and deadlines. I was relieved to note that my boss was his usual self with no indication of being offended. There was no reference to the date other than hope you had a good weekend. I took the easy way out by taking a cue from him. No hard feelings.
Work and my palpitating mind returned to normalcy. I spend most of my day in the office, and I could not afford a tensed working environment, so I was rather overly grateful for Andrew’s magnanimity on the issue.
“Try not to take life so seriously and stop second guessing people,” I chided myself. To think that I had a miserable weekend because I was worrying things might degenerate at work. My admiration for him scaled up. He is a real manager.
“A kobo for you thoughts?” I heard Peju ask.
I rarely get to see her anymore. She is off every day after work and weekends. All my fears and reservations fell on deaf ears. she was completely smitten by the guy. Although I was not keen or excited about the relationship, I buried whatever I felt could go wrong and relished in her happiness that was infectious.
“It is a penny for your thoughts,” I corrected her laughing.
“Yeah,” she said drily.
“But remember we don’t use penny here, its kobo.”
“You are incorrigible,” I say grinning like someone had just won the world lottery.
I was rather taken aback when she informed me that she would be going to Dubai with Phil for the weekend, and would like me to come along.
“You sure are moving faster than the speed of light” I commented.
“Loosen up Lana. I am not like you. I do not weigh, think and analyse everything I do or say before taking any step or make my decisions. I love adventure, and I take risks. Life does not have a well laid out plan. There is no excitement in that,” She said with one on a mission to make me see things her way.
“Are you game or not?” she went ahead to ask me all in one breath.
“I do not know. I am not sure there would be room for me,” I replied noncommittally.
“You’re kidding! That is the only condition I gave. If you are in we are off and if you are not, I call Phil to cancel,” she said with a hint of you would not dare in her eyes.
I was in a tight spot.
My mind flashed to my boss offer to Paris, and my thoughts taunted me on how was this different. I tried to rationalise it in my head wanting to convince myself than the need to convince anyone, how different this one was. I was to accompany a friend who badly wanted to go but not without me. I could not afford to be the clog in the wheel. Also, she had something going for her with Phil. I should not be a spoil sport here and oblige her.
“Oh say yes,” she pleaded so dolefully, I could hardly believe she was the one who had threatened me earlier.
“Okay, I agreed, giving in to her request.
“I fail to understand why I have to be the condition of your going,” I replied none too happy.
“My chaperone, silly,” she said like I should have been smart to figure that out.
Peju hugged me excitedly. She released me rather too quickly, looking at me in a funny way as she turned to leave with a hurried “see you later.”
I turned to leave in the opposite direction and bumped into no other than my boss.
“I am so sorry,” I apologised harried at how much of our conversation he would have heard.
“You are going to Dubai?” he asked.
At that instant, I wanted to be anywhere but where I was standing before him ashamed at my double stand.
“Yes,” I stammered and angry at myself for being placed at a disadvantage.
“Peju and me,” I explained and wondered why I felt the need to give reasons for my choices. It is not like the circumstance was the same with the Paris offer but why was I feeling guilty and what was the difference, after all, I was hoping on a plane with a client even though he was my friend’s boyfriend.
“It is a beautiful place. You would have fun. Make sure you check the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world and when you do try the observation deck on the 124th floor. Near the Burj Khalifa is the Dubai Fountain also the tallest performing fountain in the world. There is also the Dubai aquarium which houses about 140 species of sea life in huge suspended tank, and lastly, the Ski Dubai with the indoor ski slope is a must with the continuous temperature of four-degree Celsius.
You’ll have so much fun there you won’t want to come back this way,” he teased.`
There was no hint of any hard feelings considering I had thrown his offer to his face.
I felt free of my worry and a pulling of my heartstrings. I appreciated the display of selflessness and in one split-second I thought of asking if the offer to Paris was still open, but all I could say was, “I would note all these places.”
“You come back and tell me your experience. You’ll wish you’d never have to come back here.”
“Nah,” I was too quick to say.
“I’m a Naija girl, born, bred and buttered in Lagos,” I said proudly.
If anyone was proud to a fault of her Nigerian heritage, that was me.
I believed we were the most favoured people on planet Earth. We will laugh through hardship and believe that it would be well. No matter how bleak the situation looked, suicide was never considered an option.
There were several lines of separation in the country such as religion, ethnicity, education, politics and capitalism but held by a thread of unity although so thin yet strong enough to withstand the adversities. “e go better” was only a saying but it characterised who we were.
“You’re more loyal than most of us,” he said smiling and walked away.
“Phew, that’s been sorted out,” I sighed pleased with the outcome of our conversation.
He was such an incredible guy. Others would have been offended and make work difficult, but he was cool about the incidence and respected by thoughts.
I felt free as a bird in the sky with the massive weight of worry lifted off my shoulders.
“Dubai here I come!” I squealed with an unusual excitement for someone who was reluctant to go at the beginning.
* * * * * * * * *
As I drove away from Lana on Friday, I felt sorry that she could think I was trying to take advantage of the situation and insult her because of my position. I chuckled as I recalled how she flared up with her eyes wide and spitting fire with a cold yet calm voice as she fought for control.
It was amusing how she sought to control her emotions in all situations around her even when she was angry she exhibited a level of control. I had caught a glimpse of a moment she let loose, but that was a rare and fleeting moment.
I was impressed by her loyalty to her friend. The way she yielded to her friends’ pressure to the Dubai trip even when it was against her principle endeared me to her. To see someone who could put away her comfort for the comfort was refreshing in a world dominated by selfishness. This quality in a person made a strong team player. I was glad to have her on my team. I have also noticed how well she related with her colleagues, although from an arms-length perspective afraid to let people get close.
Had she been hurt before? She had the traits and signs shouting all over her “I am nice, I like you but please don’t get close. I was not going to close, but I was going to help her break the wall she had created around her and hope she let go of whatever fears or hurts plagued her I wanted to help her.
My friends said I took tasks and challenges and thrived with them. I am a people person, and I am at best when I see and take their capabilities to bring out their best. I have realised that some individuals do not know how good they are and the treasures deposited in them naturally. I study them, note and help then discover their capabilities by giving those tasks that build their confidence and strengths. I had never given it a thought as to why I did it but I love the reward of seeing people function at their best. To see beyond the dirt and flaws in people and helping them achieve their full capacity. Lana was my next project. I had rarely failed in the past. She was a colleague with a tremendous potential.
My phone rang, and I picked the call as I moved away towards the direction of my office into the usual frenzy of report and deadlines that got your adrenaline up. While others might dread it, I thrived on the action and challenges of the job. However, the call was from of my friends we hung out with once a month. He was calling to remind me of the meeting for this month.
At the end of the week, I’ll be meeting with the boys at a joint on the Island. It was something we did once every month to catch up on each others lives. We teased those married in our midst while we the single ones relished our freedom and peace. The married guys claimed we were missing on good food, safe and trusted sex and someone to come home to who you love and loves you back. Being married means you are on a team with someone who’s always got your back and a mutual respect for each other
However, while the single men disagreed that sex and food are freely available, there was no argument on mutual love and respect. Nevertheless, they were content with their lifestyle coming back to a quiet home was more appealing than coming home to someone.
I was in the single team and had no issues with joining the married group. I was not a traitor to my present state but agreed with the school of thought of the married guys and looked forward to meeting that special person. Each day brought me the awareness that my singleness was becoming dull, but I refused to get desperate to settle for just anyone. It had to be that special someone.
I believed in the sanctity of marriage and aimed to spend the rest of my life with that person so however long the wait may be it would be worth.
The myth, “Love happens when you least expected” was a reminder for me that when the right time comes, the right person will come along.
Our meeting in the previous month we had stayed later than planned and not too long Deji’s wife was calling on the phone.
“It is past your bedtime, and you have to go home,” he was teased mercilessly.
Deji did not take kindly to the joke, but he was one of those who had an arsenal full of nasty jokes, and I did not feel sorry for him being at the receiving end of one.
I looked forward to the meetings as they have a way of helping one rewind and refocus. It was something about men bonding and building themselves up, and I valued our time together. The coming week will be more fun than the rest I hoped.
One another occasion Peter had grumbled about the state of his marriage to the delight of the single men and the chagrin of the married camp.
“If you thought marriage is heaven, be warned it comes with its hiccups, wait till the first baby came. It is as if your wife suddenly forgets all about your existence with her whole attention on this new person who has arrived the scene”.
“Do I sense a jealous man here?” Musa asked hitting him on the back playfully.
“You are competing with your baby?” I asked taken aback.
“I am not”, he growled.
“It’s hard to explain. One day you are the center of her world and the next, she’s got this helpless rival whose your blood staring her in the eyes. You watch her cooing at the baby in some secret language you cannot understand and the child giggling with delight as a response.
Sometimes I think the eyes of the child goes weary when he see me like “like hey dude what you are doing here. I cannot share with you tonight.”
We were all reeling with laughter by now. You could hear loud guffaws across enough to block any ones hearing. It was a good thing we were seating outside. Peter was a first class clown.
“Am I the only one feeling that way?” He asked looking round. I thought I saw a slight anguish on his face but in a flash, it was gone, and it could have been a figment of my imagination.
“You are the only one with a baby,” we all chorused and laughed hard.
I hope what you are saying is not true,” Musa sighed. His wife was expecting their first baby in three months.
“Don’t let him scare you,” said Deji, who was still waiting for children in his three-year-old marriage.
“You will get there, and I will be here to remind you that I warned you,” he said with the air of it is given.
“For months I wrestled and could not voice out how I felt. It was crazy. How can I be competing with my child for my wife’s affection and attention?” he asked.
We were clueless as none of us had walked that route before so we could not offer any advice. Peter would have had to figure it out himself.
The discussion moved from family to work, and that was when the group sprang on me
“When are you leaving banking to join your father’s business?” Musa asked.
“I told my father ten years, and I have four more years to go. Although I have started going through the records and learning the ropes gradually, I love what I do now.
“Have you thought of starting a bank or something similar to the financial institutions? Peter asked glancing at the others for input.
“The way you have handled our investment portfolio on the side of your banking has been incredible. You have made us all rich men. You could get like-minded men with resources and start something,” he added.
It was no secret alongside the banking he had delved into investment, and most of the guys in the group had willingly allowed him to make their financial decisions. Fortunately, it had gone well. He had considered taking up a role in investment banking but opted to remain in his current position as its diversity afforded him a mixture of commercial, retail and investment banking providing a platform to build a robust investment portfolio from scratch.
I slipped my club soda mineral water on ice thoughtfully. I had often thought of floating an investment company adding it to the subsidiaries of my father’s business, so I still get to run the family business and do what I love. But he had not been able to get his thoughts together. Peter suggesting it was like a confirmation of what he wanted to do.
“If anyone could do it, that would be you, Andrew,” Musa said slapping me on the back in his usual way.
I winced I had not seen it coming, and the lack of expectation must have heightened the pain.
“Please let us know where we can come in,” Deji offered.
And so over a couple of drinks in a bar, my friends came the idea of owning an investment company. It was time to draw up strategies and put my thoughts together if this was something I want to do.
Naija – A popular slang used to refer to the country Nigeria
Life could be less complicated
The buzz in the place went down gradually as people began to leave. I sat, people watching. My feet hurt after moving around having a word with many individuals as possible. My clients and potential leads. I had fun at the party meeting people and congratulating myself on the new leads.
My uncle fusses that the only thing I think about is my work, but that is who I am. I draw my identity from what I do. I guess that is what we all do? The thought of what my life would be without the job is one I have not given myself the torture of exploring. I choose to leverage on my age and the fact that I have more years to retirement.
Sitting with a glass of champagne in my right hand, I used the left hand to pull off my shoes and place my feet on the bare floor. I could feel relief flowing from my feet to the whole of me. Who invented shoes with heels? It was glamour and torment. A necessary evil. Similar to the different sides of a coin, both sides equally important. I was still musing over the thoughts of heels and shoes when I hear Peju’s voice.
“How many glasses of wine have you had today,” she asked as she came around to where I sat.
“No Idea. My friend has finally decided to grace me with her presence after deserting me for some guy you just met.”
“Is someone jealous?”
Trust Peju to make light something so serious.
“I think you should take it slow. Don’t want to see you get hurt.”
“It is too early to start worrying Lana. I have not said I am going out with the guy. We just met and gravitated to one another. We have so much in common, and I had an entertaining evening in between meeting his friends, business associates and talking.”
Peju moved and hugged me laughing.
“I will be okay. Please do not send your vibes of worry my way so I don’t chicken out like you,” she remarked.
“Where you afraid? was that what happened with Bode?”
I looked at Peju not only had her comment hurt she was bringing a topic that was a taboo for me.
“When do we leave?” I stifled a yawn changing the subject.
“One day, you will tell me all that happened because I have a feeling that Bode’s shadow has been hanging over you, and I fear that it might destroy any other future relationship before it starts,” she concluded boldly.
Peju has always been diplomatic when discussing Bode. Mostly saying nothing but today she threw caution to the wind.
I sipped on my champagne again.
“How many of this glasses have you taken today?” she asked again but this time worriedly taking the glass away from me.
“I told you earlier, can not recollect,” I answered irritably.
“You might as well be on the highway to drunkenness.”
“That’s a joke right,” I said more of a question than a statement.
If that’s that case, I should be staggering and voicing obscenities,” I chuckled at my lame joke.
I rarely took alcohol and whatever I had been taking the whole evening did not taste like hard liquor, not that I was an expert in wine tasting to know but I trusted my sense of smell and taste.
“Where is our manager?” Peju asked.
“Off to a family program,” I answered annoyed as to why we were having this discussion. If she was so interested in his staying why did she abandon me to keep his company? Although it was not a hard task, I could not hide the fact that I did have a lovely time.
Peju had this look on her face. I knew that look. The one of a battle to express or not express a thought.
“I saw you in one of your rare unguarded moments even though my theory could be wrong, time will tell,” she commented.
Tonight I was not interested in goading her to explain what her theory was. Perhaps tomorrow but right now I needed a bed.
“Are we set to leave?” I asked.
“Yes, all set. Shall we?”
As we walked towards Peju’s car, I asked her if I should be organising a wedding.
“That would be too late I think a baby dedication is more like it,” Peju laughed.
“You’re beginning to sound like your uncle,” she teased.
“You are in a hurry to get me out of your life but sorry girlfriend you’ll be seeing me around for a long time, not a relationship is significant enough to keep me away.
I hoped so. I desperately hoped so, but I also knew the dynamics of our relationship was set to change. Peju thought she leant on me and that I was the strong one, but it was the reverse. She was active, funny and took life less serious than I did. She was the sanity I needed in my planned ordered world. The crazy and stupid stunts I pulled that made my life interesting were Peju’s and the need sometimes to shock her. She saw beneath my calm, cold exterior to the heart of me.
I dozed off as soon as soon as I got into the car. I could hardly remember the trip home or how I got out into bed.
I woke up to a brightness that blinded my eyes. I groaned as I used the pillow over my head. My head was pounding like a thousand hammers clanging down on me.
“You are alright?” I could hear Peju’s voice from a distance.
“No. My head hurts,”I croaked.
I heard her walk out of the room and back again.
“Here is a glass of water and aspirin. It will help,” she said as she sat on the bed helping me up.
“I am going to church and won’t be back immediately. I am having lunch with Phil. There is food in the fridge all you need is to microwave it.”
The banging in my head won’t stop. I was overwhelmed with pain and could not comment on this new piece of information.
I laid back in bed willing with all my might for the pain to go or for some sleep which had eluded me.
“Is this what a hangover felt like?” I asked no one in particular. The conversation was taking place in my head.
I vowed never to trust the judgement of my sense of smell and taste on alcohol as I tried to recall how many of glasses of wine I drank. Was there any warning signs that I had taken more than enough?
I staggered up aghast; the pain in my head all but was forgotten.
“I had agreed to go out dinner at some place with My Boss. What was I thinking?
It was harmless, a part of me argued.
But I did not want to subject myself to office gossip. People would read meanings into it.
I should have refused the other part of me chastised.
I must have been drunk to have agreed to that. The sensible thing to have done was to decline politely and agree never to bring up the issue of name calling again or agreed to a truce since he was now a better person as a result.
Oh, what is wrong with me? I was alert the whole time. My senses were working fine except my taste buds and sense of smell.
The entire event of last night flooded back. I grimaced ashamed of my behaviour. I must be losing it.
How was I supposed to face the boss tomorrow at work?
Why did he not say something to alert me I was out of my element?
I had this battle going on in my head as I planned my redemption act of which there was no clear-cut plan till sleep took over my tired eyelids.
Whatever strategy I had devised on Sunday was of no use as my Boss was out of office the most of the week for meetings with the management. He was back to work mid-day Friday, about the time I was getting excited of the inevitable cancelling of the dinner.
I realised I was typing and re-typing my reports. I seemed to be making mistakes and was not going ahead on it. That the deadline was in an hours’ time did not help me. I could not put my thoughts together.
The phone on my desk rang.
“Consumer Sales Lana,” I chimed with the usual enthusiasm we used on the phone.
“Hello Lana,” came the deep baritone voice from the other end.
It was my Boss.
For some seconds, I was blank on what to say
“Are you there,” he asked.
“Are you busy at the moment? I could call back,” he offered.
By now I have wrapped the cord around my fingers nervous, and my colleagues were staring at me.
“It is a report I am working on, and I am having a little issue with the tables. I have less than 45 minutes to send it in.
“Send the report to my box, let me see if I could help,” he said and dropped the phone.
My plan was getting messed up by the minute. My beautiful speech of how I would be unable to go was all dissolving into the thin air.
“You okay?” Chika one of my colleagues asked.
“Yes,” I snapped.
I apologised to her immediately. She was being concerned, and here I was taking my frustration out on her.
I fumbled with the report adjusting the tables, but the result was not as expected.
Twenty minutes later, Andrew called back to check what he sent.
I went over the report and what I had been having issues with was resolved.
“Thank you,” I said effusively.
“I get my thanks at our outing this evening.”
“I hope you have not forgotten,” he said, and there was a pause at the other end like he half expected me to back out.
“No,” I smiled falsely into the phone notwithstanding that he could not see my face.
I asked for the venue which he declined on the premise that it was a surprise. How do I say I did not want to leave the office with him?
“I brought my car and would like to drive back home without having to come back this way to pick my car,” I explained which seemed like a good reason.
“You could drive behind me,” he said thoughtfully.
The outing was a bad idea. I worried what to say if I would relax and enjoy the meal, what my colleagues would think. The last thing I needed on my plate now was rumours of an office romance that did not exist.
At the close of work, Peju was off with “see you tomorrow.” Phil has been picking her from work since the beginning of the week. Whatever was going on looked intense, and while I was happy for my friend, I was also worried about if it did not work out. From my discussion with Phil before the party, I know he would be back in Dubai next week. He was not through with the project they are working on there.
We drove downtown into an area that was not familiar. I was getting paranoid after a while if I was safe as we turned into a white bungalow well hidden by the trees surrounding the driveway. It was surprising that there were still areas in the town with vegetation as against the bricks and concrete all over the place.
I switched off the engine of the car and took a deep breath. I was startled when I opened my eyes, and he was already by the door to help me open.
“What’s this place?” I asked looking around appreciatively. The outside was breath taking. The lawn neatly cut with shrubs designed to read the word “welcome”e and in the middle an outdoor fountain statue of a Bronze woman pouring out water with a calabash held by her neck and the water forming a puddle at her feet.
I went to look at the figurine closely. I doubted if anyone noticed the expression on the face of the woman but I could see someone who did what she had to do without deriving any joy from it as she put up a front of what people wanted to see. You could gaze at her and envy her look of perfection and purpose, but there was the hidden sadness in her eyes. Did she think herself helpless or was she clueless how to make her life better than that which society thrust on her? Who was she? A maidservant? A royal posing for a painting? The folds of her cloth depicted luxury may be silk which could only be worn by someone of class.
“She’s beautiful, but her eyes have sadness in them,” I said to Andrew referring to the statue.
“If you can’t leave her, then wait till you go in, and I must warn you ahead you might not want to leave this place.This way,” he gestured.
“You are about to enter a different world you have not experienced before,” he raved with a cocky grin.
“You think so?” I challenged all trepidation gone.
Andrew could not have been more right, and it was magnanimous of him not to gloat over it.
I was taken aback at the beauty and display of wealth.
It was a restaurant but designed as intimate mini lounges. There was a bar, and a life band was playing soft, soothing music.
“We could eat here, outdoor or upstairs,” Andrew said.
I looked upstairs, and I was mesmerised. The massive chandeliers cast a million drops of light below. I could imagine how it would look up there. Like a kid, I requested to go and see.
Upstairs was breathtaking. There were a mini pool and a fountain with the seats arranged around. The water had lights under it and some sea creatures that were not real jumping in and out of the water.
I settled for downstairs. We got a seat by the window which allowed us to see the beauty outside. In spite of the fact that it was night, the whole outdoor was lighted up.
I fell in love with that place and promised to come back here alone if Peju would not come.
As soon as we settled in our seats, a bottle of wine was brought including the menu list.
They had both traditional and continental dishes. We opted for traditional. I was sceptical but ventured for the fried plantain with pepper sauce and grilled fish while Andrew opted for a rice recipe called “Masa” with vegetables and steak meat. For drinks, we had pure mixed fruit juice of oranges, lemon, mango and pineapple.
“I would not be touching that,” I blurted out rather too quickly. I could not forget Saturday in a hurry.
“It is nonalcoholic,” he said reading my mind.
“I’ll let that pass I don’t seem to be a good judge of alcohol.”
“I promise it’s not like the one you had at that party.”
I looked at him suspiciously.
“What do you know about that?”
“You secret safe with me,” he said laughing.
“You knew?” I accused.
“I picked you from Peju’s car. You were stone dead asleep.”
I covered my face in mock shame.
“You did not.”
“You did not.”
We went on like two little children.
“I did not if that is what you want to believe I am game,” he shrugged.
“I can’t believe it.”
Andrew narrated how he called my phone to be sure Peju and I had arrived home. Peju picked the call that we were home, but she was having a challenge getting me inside because I was dead asleep.She could neither carry nor drag me.
Luckily he was two blocks away from Peju’s place, and he drove by to help her take me in.
I was going to skin Peju alive for keeping that part away from me.
Our meal came in no time. Hot and sizzling.
“Do you want to try this?” he asked.
I looked over at Andrew’s.
“I’ll stick to what I know.”
The meal was tasty, and every bite was rewarding.
I never knew a simple meal like the one I was having could taste so heavenly.
I caught Andrew looking at me too often during the meal
“What?” I asked laughing.
“The way you keep staring at me I’m wondering if you want my meal.”
“I can see you love the meal.”
“Absolutely. If this is what it takes to call you names I should be looking for more terrible names,” I teased him.
I liked the way his eyebrows went up with a hint of confusion when he seemed lost for words.
“You won’t be getting this I promise. I should consider a Buka the next time.”
“You would not dare?” I challenged him.
“You want to bet?”
“I won’t go with you, and you can’t make me.”
“I could tie you up and haul you there,” he joked.
“I will sue you for kidnap and harassment,” I said vehemently.
“In our dear Naija, the case will go on and on, and you would probably be seventy before any judge decides on the case.”
Sadly, that was the truth. Take a case to court and you could be there for several years. It would have been nice if you did get an honest and untampered judgement.
“I would not be doing that,” Andrew said seriously.
“Don’t call me any more names but we could do this in Paris next month.”
He said it so casually like he was talking about going to the next street.
“Is that another outing sir?” I asked.
“Why do you mention, sir, whenever I ask to take you somewhere?”
“You are my boss,” I said stubbornly.
“Yes I am your boss, but we don’t use that in the office anymore remember,” he said smiling
He was not taking the bait. Paris is he joking or crazy.
The guy was scaring the wits out of me, and he just sits there so relaxed.
“But Paris? Why would you take a colleague to Paris?
I am going and did not think it out of place to ask you. We did invite our friends on such trips when I was growing up.
“Where I come from, we do not hop on a plane and jet off out of town with colleagues or friends,” I said.
I was getting angry with him and myself.
What gave him the right to think he had the liberty to ask me to Paris?
Did I look like those hungry, greedy social climbers?
“I want to go home it is getting rather late” I announced.
The waiter brought the bill. He paid, and we left.
I got into my car.
“Thank you for a fantastic night,” he said to me.
“I am sorry I mentioned Paris. It was not to insult you. I wanted to give you another experience that would light up your eyes the way it did tonight.”
“You remember that statue when we came in, you recognised those eyes because that’s the same look in your eyes. I would like to see the girl I saw today unguarded and free.”
I wanted to throw myself at him and cry. I had not been able to cry since it happened. Here was someone who did not know me or my story but read through me. I was weary, but I had to keep holding on. Instead, all I did was to thank him for an excellent evening rev my car and drive away into the night.
Buka – A makeshift roadside restaurant specialised in affordable traditional meals
Work hard party hard
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.
Letting my hair down…….
It’s been three months since the profitability meeting weekend. Work has been on fast pace like a speed train. My ill position in the manager’s eyes had fallen to someone else. I found myself on one or more occasions giving the new guy a pep talk from my experience.
Isn’t it ironic that what I resented so much was the needed training for my career advancement? It was both a sense of relief and loss at the same time. A relief I no longer spent those long hours digging for information or going over a report under the watchful and critical eyes of my manager but a loss because I miss the drive and challenge those times brought being someone who never liked to fail at a project.
Our Manager, who we all now lovingly call Drew, has removed the scowl from his face, and replaced with a now sickening constant smile plastered on his face like someone gone for cosmetic surgery. To be quite candid, I do love the smile but can someone have a smile on their face all the time? I shudder when I think, his might have been cosmetic surgery gone wrong. In our brainstorming session, he had insisted we conform to management’s decision on first name basis. It had been awkward for a while, but we all got used to it with little slips here and then.
In addition to the smile are a charm and fabulous sense of humour that has resulted in a stiff completion for his attention among the ladies at the office.
The spike in their dress sense at work rivals any fashion show in Paris, New York, London or Milan and the assault of perfumes on your nostril could leave you gasping for breath. The rate he had to attend to mundane issues under the guise of wanting to be around him was hilarious. If he requested help from staff, he had three or four ladies volunteering. I felt so sorry for him because you could see the bewildered look on his face to note that he was clueless. It was like watching one of those comedy sitcoms. But I would not trade this new guy for the old one.
Peju and I have been on different projects. We worked in the same office but did not have five minutes to say hello. We caught up sometimes during lunch hour and weekends when we were not working.
Incredible but true we were working weekends. We had no life but refused to complain, after all, that was what we signed for on our contract of employment letter. It was stated,”to work some weekends if need be,” only we were working all weekends for the past six weeks.
Our accounts with Chief Idowu and Ideal Oil and Gas Limited had grown by leaps and bounds. We were adding new accounts consistently from networking with the clients and suppliers used by his business. With the help of Phillip Idowu, Chief’s son and the links he offered my portfolio grew geometric exponentially.
He was currently out of the country overseeing a business interest of the company in Dubai. I met him once and due to his tight schedule and frequent trips we ran our meetings on the phone, phone calls, conference calling and sometimes skype. He had given me all his numbers both in and outside the country to reach him whenever. Peju focused on Chief Idowu while I focused on Ideal Oil and Gas.
Peju found me at the canteen during lunch. She had this look of excitement on her face as she handed me an invitation card.
“Get ready to boogie. It’s Chief Idowu’s wife’s 50th birthday party, and this is our invitation,” she pointed to the card in my hands as I opened to read.
For someone who loves being by herself, I never minded parties. I love the whole dressing and meeting people, the friendly banter, jokes and laughter and the opportunity for networking.
“I am in,” I responded still reading the card.
“It is two weeks from now, and the dress theme is the 1950s,” I groaned. My high point was never in searching for clothes. Find it and give it to me to wear was more like it. I was one of those ladies that hated shopping for clothes. I checked what I wanted on the internet, where to buy and ordered online. The reason why I had stashed of unused clothes in my wardrobe; two in every five ordered did not fit. However, moving from shop to shop neither appealed to me nor was it an option.The whole idea of trying several clothes to buy one was draining.
“Dress theme? Peju asked as she had apparently read my mind.
“Sorted! Done all that on the phone while coming here. Called my sister in London to help search for two 1950s vintage gown. Something affordable and classy,”
Peju’s sister is a fashion freak, who has shopped most of the clothes we both wore. We considered her our fashion consultant and offered to pay for her services despite her initial refusal. Through us and many more demands, she built a clientele and started her clothes retail store. She did understand our bodies and the look we desired. Having her sort out my clothing style and purchases was one of the best things that happened to me.
“I also called your cousin to book for our nails to be done on Friday after work and she referred a makeup artist who I called up and would be at my house on Saturday,” Peju said with a triumphant look in her eyes.
“You got all this figured out. You’re a girl’s best friend. I am beginning to sound like a broken record with, this cliche, but it is true.
“Whatever am I to do when prince charming comes calling? Shouldn’t I be the evil queen and use my magic wand to wave him out of our lives?” I asked wickedly.
My dear friend has been moaning over the last few weeks of her single state. Claiming most of her friends back home were all married.
“I never dreamt of being single at 24. At my age, I should have finished childbearing.”
“Were you hoping to get married at 16 or 18?” I asked snorting in disgust without realising it. My mother would have a fit at such unladylike display after her huge investment on etiquette and manners training at summer camps during my teenage years.
“I secretly hoped to have married at 18, finished having my kids at 24 and become a grandma at 40,”
“You’re joking right?” I asked bewildered.
“No, I am serious.” she said and I was forced to believe she meant it.
“We will have to find you a husband this month. Some potbellied old man with real money who already has three wives being the fourth would not too bad,” I said sarcastically. The only snag will be shipping you out of Lagos back to your northern region. The north part of the country was prevalent for giving out their girls in marriage at a very young age to men old enough to be their fathers.
Although some non-governmental organisations were actively fighting against this especially for those younger than eighteen, there was still much that needed to be done to eradicate the practice entirely.
Peju grew up in this kind of environment. Many times I forget that she is more from this part of the country than our south-west.
“ I am not that desperate when I said 18, it was to someone in mid-twenties to mid-thirties ready for marriage, not some old man and please note that men from that region are not potbellied like the ones down here,” she defended passionately.
“I hear,” raising my hands in a sign of mock surrender and added, “I do think you are suffering from a case of lost identity,” I retorted drily.
“You’re sold to this your northern heritage.” I shook my head sadly.
“The south-west has lost its daughter to the north. The stake to redeem you is high and why do I think it’s futile?” I wailed melodramatically.
“Stop this your drama. It will break my father’s heart to hear you. Spending all his life in the north, he considered himself a proudly southwestern man and took pride to have brought us up with those values, but I guess the environmental factor is a strong influence. He could not say a word in that language to save his life, but all his children spoke the language fluently to the detriment of their mother tongue.
As if the world wanted to confirm further my fear, a client from this region walked in. Peju rattled away in the local dialect much to my chagrin.
It was my cue to take my leave and I did.
“See you,” I muttered and escaped.
They could be plotting my demise for all I knew. Now I think I am going little overboard with the recent crime books I have been feasting on. The last one had a plot where a guy planned the demise of his friend right in front of him because he neither spoke nor understood the language.
Two weeks flew, and the party was upon us. The dresses arrived in time. Mine was a black and white 1950s vintage polka dot A- line Halter swing dress while Peju was teal butterfly vintage dress. My cousin outdid herself with our nails designed in the same fabric design as our dresses.
Sheila has done well for herself. A dream was all she had back then. She pursued her nail dream and worked hard to be where she was today. Her nail studio was among the first three in the country with two offices in Lagos. One on the Island and another on the mainland.
Her clients were across the globe. She shuttled between Africa, Europe and America. She had just returned from a fashion show in Paris where her team were responsible for the all the nails of the models.
We were lucky to get booked in just two weeks. She had clients bookings as long as three months and some cases six months. Peju and I were on her life membership which afforded us the luxury of her services at such short notice.
“We are your brand ambassadors,” Peju declared as she requested for her complimentary cards.
Sheila was quick to hand her about twenty of the cards.
“I’ll take some from her,” I offered.
“How do you cope with your clientele?” I asked Sheila amused at the way she was quick to hand over the complimentary cards even when she had more clients than she could handle.
“I get by with proper planning, organisation and a great team. I also do invest a lot in training on the skills and customer service. My business thrives on repeated services so word of mouth referrals are key for us. One dissatisfied client can cause a loss of ten other customers. I have also offered some of my team partnership, so we all see it as our business. It’s not my success it is our success. I have about twenty staff on my team a huge clientele base, but I still have not reached my goal,” she said passionately.
“To be the nail mecca of the world,” I concluded for her.
“You’ll get there. You have done so much for yourself, and I can tell you are smiling to the bank. Talking of that, I doubt if you have an account with us. Let’s fix an appointment for next week if that would work for you?” I asked not one to take no for an answer.
“No, make it Friday, a fortnight from today. I’ll be in California the whole of next week. I am part of the team working on a Hollywood film.”
I heartily congratulated her stunned.
“Two weeks it is. We’ll discuss on what e- solution we can package for you that will help your banking needs,” I promised her.
“My present bank is trying,” she offered a vote of confidence. I noted a sense of loyalty and played not to discredit her bank not that I ever did that, but I had to be careful in my sales not to belittle her bank.
“I’m sure they are. However, our solutions aid businesses. We tailor e- applications to your needs. I am certain you would have had challenges especially those periods you are out of the country,” I doggedly remarked.
“Yeah, quite some challenges but we found a way to make do.”
“Not anymore Sheila, I am so sorry it never occurred to me. We should have done this earlier.”
We exchanged hugs, planned a girls outing when she got back and left for home. It was past 10 pm. I had called home as I was crashing at Peju’s place this weekend. All effort to make my parents see reason in me moving out had fallen on deaf ears.My mum would hear nothing of it. She practically brought the roof down when I first mentioned it. She argued there was no reason to rent a house when they were in the same city as I was. I discussed with my mum that girls younger than myself were living on their own and did well with it.
My mum insisted no daughter of hers would live alone. She said young ladies living on their own were prone to promiscuity and that it was from her house to my husband’s house. I had brought the topic up time and time again, but she stood her grounds. For the sake of peace, I stayed put hoping she would see reason and change her mind.
The traffic to and from work could be crazy and on several occasions I was forced to sleep at Peju place surprising she did not have issues with Peju and did not see her as promiscuous rather she felt Peju was the most sensible of all my friends.
Our makeup artist arrived and 4 pm. Saturday evening. I could barely recognise myself when I looked into the mirror. It was uproarious to watch me calling my name severally in a bid to convince myself I was still who I thought I was.
My everyday makeup routine was a liquid eyeliner on the top of my eyelid finished up with mascara for longer eyelashes, a neutral lipgloss and Mac liquid foundation that fitted my skin tone. Today I had been subjected to brow shaping, winged eyeliner, false lashes, contouring, highlighting and bronzing. With each application, it looked like I was gradually losing who I was. I thought of cleaning it up, but I wouldn’t dare, not all the trouble the makeup artist had gone through to achieve this look.
My dress was beautiful. I finished the look with a bright red platform peep-toe shoe, and red sequined clutch purse, the same shade of lipstick. Red was not my favourite colour but looked great on me tonight. I kept to my minimal jewellery style. White pearl ear studs with a silver wristwatch. I left my neck bare. There was no need for a necklace with the halter neck. Others might but I loved the simplicity of being bare.
I was blown away by Peju’s looks. Peju is beautiful but tonight she was a stunner. I could not have been more proud of my friend in her lovely teal butterfly vintage dress she matched with cream high heeled sandals and creamed gold sequined clutch purse. Peju was loud on her gold jewellery which did not look out of place on her; dangling gold earrings with white stones that looked like diamonds pieced with a matching necklace and bracelet.
She had her black hair extension in glorious curls that cascaded down her shoulder. Her big almond shaped eyes were now prominent with the black eyeliner and mascara used against her fair skin tone. A faint red blush was visible on her cheeks and finished with dark red on her lips.
I had long stopped insisting that Peju checked her family line for traces of Caucasian blood as she could be passed for a half-caste although she claimed she was purely African.
In her usual fashion, Peju was going on about how I looked and how bad it was a party most likely full of people in their fifties and sixties and sad, we probably would not see people our age there.
“We could stay at home?” I suggested mischievously.
“Not on your life?” she threatened.
“After all this,” She gestured at our false selves.
We waited for the makeup artist to get her things together, locked up and Peju drove to the venue.
It was quite unusual to find the hall almost filled up when we arrived at 6.55pm. Scanning the room, we located Chief Idowu and his wife standing in a corner with other people as we wove our way through the crowd to exchange pleasantries and give the celebrant our good wishes.
Mrs Idowu did not look a day older than thirty – eight. It was hard to believe she was fifty. I hope that at forty years, I would look half as good as she did today. She was tall, graceful and elegant in her appearance and manner. She had a soft-spoken voice with a faint trace of a British accent and a warm smile that was both in her eyes and on her lips. There was this aura of serenity around her. In an instant, I longed to be held in her embrace and heard this loud voice in my head. “This woman is at peace with herself and the world, and I wanted that.”
As I held her hand, a weird thing happened, there was this connection in our eyes like she could see my soul. She drew me into a warm hug and said: ” I would love to see you again.”
Deja Vu you call it, I did not care, but I knew I wanted to meet this woman again. I wanted what she had. It was not material it was something on the inside of her.
We found our way back and picked the first available table we saw.
It was party time, and I could already tell it was going to be more fun than I thought. These older people don’t want to be outdone by us the younger ones. They sure came prepared.
The women were turning up in incredible dresses, but I had to give it to the men, how do they stay so young and more good looking as they grew older without much effort like their counterparts- the women?
From makeup to botox and cosmetic surgery, girdles, dieting, slimming herbs, going to the gym, yoga and pilates. I hope I find out the men’s secret to youthfulness before getting to this age so I could use it.
The next day at the office, our Manager came in with the usual scowl on his face. The moment he walked in we all did the disappearing act and settled into our seats even though it was still half an hour to the start of work.
The whole atmosphere changed from one of lightness to that filled with tension and apprehension. I suppose we should all be used to that by now, but there is something you just can’t get used to especially when it’s against all that is the ideal. There is just something inside you that longs for the best. In order not be seen as the one without anything to do and be called to his office. We all opened our computers and started the day’s work furiously.
No sooner had he walked in, did the phone on my table ring. I had my guess. It was another bad day for me. I looked at Peju pleading with her to pick the phone as I scrambled away quickly to the ladies.
“Peju Phillips corporate sales.”
“Yes sir, she’s not at her desk right now.” I heard her say as I stood by the door listening.
I came back to my desk precisely at the start of work. Peju was quick to inform me that I was to call him.Hopefully, I would not have to report to his office.I prayed as I made the call.
“Lana please go through the reports I just sent to you. You’ll be making a presentation at the profitability management session this weekend. It’s holding at the Whispering Palms Resort Badagry. You might need to reschedule your appointments for Thursday and Friday this week. We will work out the finishing touches on Thursday and leave the office on Friday afternoon.
“Yes, sir. Yes, sir” I kept saying yes sir to all he said nodding my head like he could see me. I was dazed. My thoughts had travelled to several places where you’ll only find fear, worry and anxiety.
This opportunity was great for my career. The management staff will get to see me. But I was not ready. It was not the right time. I should not be going. Someone else should go. What if I make a mess of the whole thing. I was giving all the excuses why I should not be the one to go, selling myself short.
“I am going to the profitability management meeting with the manager,” I announced to Peju.
“Good for you, it is about time,” Peju replied.
“Why do you say that? What of if I make a mess? It is the whole region with about fifty other branches,” I asked with a tremor in my voice. I could sense a panic attack coming on me.
“Lana, when you make a presentation you carry everyone along. Your presentations are something we to look forward to in the office. You know what you’re saying and how to say it to get the desired result. It is an opportunity to celebrate the branch,” said Peju with a confidence I envied.
“I’ve never done this before. It’s different,” I further argued.
“It is you, Lana. You’ll do it well. I have never known you to fail at what you do,” Peju encouraged me.
I wish I had just a pinch of the faith she had in me.
I threw myself into studying all the reports and doing an additional study to every angle to tackle any unexpected questions. I was in and out of my manager’s office of my free will. At a time, I thought the man began to dread my call the way I did his. I could not afford to fail. It was not every day that a junior staff presented at such a meeting. But he must have seen something in me to take that risk, and I was not going to let him down.
I worked hard for the presentation and gave myself as much pep talk I could. Peju was a rock. With her, I felt I could do it, but on my bed at night, I fought with both ants and giant of fears.
By Friday, I was a nervous wreck. Going through the presentation with my manager, I could not believe how kind he was and not easily irritated at the minor mistakes I made.
“You can do this. It is not different from the presentations you have done at the branch. You have all the information in your head, all you need is confidence,” he said so convincingly that I began to believe it too.
Between Peju and my manager, I could not tell who was more supportive, but I was grateful for the pillar of strength they both offered.
The profitability management meeting ended up being my stepping stone to stardom. The country manager commended my presentation skills and admonished others to emulate and learn a thing or two from mine. I doubt if they would have been any of that If my branch profitability rate was less than the 120% we achieved that month.
Being in that meeting, I was almost sure my head had doubled in size and would need help getting out through the doors. Simply put I was elated. I was where I knew I wanted to be. I was coming into my career’s full circle. Thankful for the people who encouraged and did not allow me to give into my fear.
The gruelling weekend session finally came to an end Sunday afternoon. It was nothing compared to the hours of torture I had spent at my manager’s office. That experience made this weekend something like heaven for me.
Somewhere during the trip, not sure the precise moment but I noticed that my manager had forgotten to bring his scowl along. The trip and hours we spent at the session revealed another side of him. I noticed the way he greeted the other colleagues warm, firm handshake, confidence, smooth strides and how eloquent, distinct and knowledgeable he was at the meeting. I was proud of my boss. Everyone had a good word to say about him which left me wondering that perhaps there was a switch with someone else in between the office and here.
I could not recall a time I enjoyed a discussion this much and an exchange of ideas on stimulating issues. Politics, economics, science, technology and entertainment. He had facts and figures. He was not too proud and had no overdose of the male ego so he could gallantly lose out in a discussion and be cool about it. He was jovial and laughed easily, the kind of laughter that was music to your ears. No one would believe it at work when I tell them all this on Monday. There was not the usual grunt or curt words just two colleagues having a great time.
Even the times of silence were comfortable. I loved this kind of work relationship. Not being afraid to speak out and no one judging your ideas wrong or right. I wished we could carry this back to the office. Our performance rating will soar. There was nothing like letting people be comfortable in their skin. It unleashed creativity and boosted performance on the job. That was one thing I wanted to see on my team when I do become a manager.
I must have been lost in my thoughts because I felt a tap on my arms
“Where have you been? I have been calling your name,” he said with a worry edged on his face.
“You alright?” He asked looking more concerned.
“I am great sir,” I replied.
“My question is do you love the job.I’m not asking as your manager so an honest answer would do.”
“Yes,” I replied wondering why the question.
“How much on a scale of 1- 10?” he implored.
“10,” I responded without a doubt.
“Cool!” he exclaimed with raised eyebrows.
“You are the first who has told me that. Not many people do. They seem to find themselves into it by circumstance, not their first choice.”
“I always wanted to work in a bank right from when I was a teenager. I had an aunt who did, and I just fell in love with the whole idea. That is not to say that some days are not crazy, but every experience put together. I love it.”
“And you?” I asked all the fear gone as I found it easy to talk to him.
“I am okay with the job but can I let you on a secret? I am not a ten somewhere on a scale of eight. Early retirement calling,” he chuckled.
If I was astonished, I did not let it show. I was at a loss as to what he meant but did not feel he owed me any explanation.
“Any wedding bells soon?”
I was taking aback but answered.
“None. No wedding bells would be ringing for a while,” I answered as a matter of fact.
I could not read the look on his face there was something like disappointment, but it was gone so fast I could not be sure
“You shouldn’t make it too long. You know in our society the timing for women is different. There comes a season when the ship for wedding proposals set sail and whoever is left behind finds it difficult to get on any other ship,” he explained it so comically I laughed.
“I would not need to get on that ship. I don’t think it’s for me.”
Not to dwell too much on myself I threw his question back at him.
“What about you?”
“Which? wedding bells or biological clock?”
“Wedding bells,” I laughed.
“ Men do not have a biological clock or rather the ships just keeps sailing for them. A man of fifty will wake up one day and marry a girl of eighteen,” I explained using his words.
“No wedding bells yet. I am still searching for that special someone .”
“That should not be hard with half of the women out there falling at your feet,” I explained truthfully. The guy had all the boxes ticked right and going for him. All he needed to was ask.
“Does that include you?” He asked searching my face.
“No I belong to the other half, I blurted out without giving the question a thought. But dwelling later on it I think I should have been more diplomatic.
He burst out laughing that was more of a chuckle than a guffaw but sounded more like music making me conclude that this side of him was better than the one he brought to work and If I could do anything to keep it this way would be of benefit to the whole office.
“I can’t believe you are entirely different outside the office. At work you have got this scowl on your face always but here, you are nice, comfortable to be with jovial, and you laugh,” I said that bit like laughing was on the same level as climbing the Mount Kilimanjaro.
“Is it the scowl that earned me the name Buffalo?”
I almost convulsed in the car. I looked straight ahead and did not comment.
“Never judge a book by its cover Lana,” he said so quietly that I almost missed it.
The way he said my name did things to my stomach which I attributed to the edikang- ikong soup I had taken that afternoon just before leaving. This soup prepared with a generous quantity of pumpkin and water leaves is a famous delicacy among the Efik people from the South- south of Nigeria.
I could not wait for the ride to end. I’ve never been more glad to see my driveway as I was at that moment. Shame rested like a huge garment placed over my head.
I squeaked a thank you as I jumped out of the car.
He came down and helped take out my luggage from the booth of the car.
“You do not need to feel bad. I’ve heard worse names than the one you coined,” he said with a huge smile on his face. He did not look a bit offended, but that did not allay the guilt I felt.
The opportunity to give my apologies, but I could not do that. Apologising meant acknowledging what he said was true. The name fitted who he was at the office, not this new person in whose company I had spent the weekend.
I wanted to deny, but it was futile to do so. He was not assuming. He knew and how he did is still a mystery. It sounded good when Peju and I used that name, but right now, it felt juvenile and stupid of us to have indulged in such. I was not sure I could face him after today. The novelty in using the name died the moment he mentioned it.
“You were great out there. You did create a buzz too. You are now in the eyes of management. It won’t be long you are moved out to some other unit or role. When that happens, and you need any help feel free to call me. You know where to find me,” he tactfully changed the topic and was giving me a lifeline, but I was too ashamed to use it.
His last words registered in my subconscious. Those were Bode’s last words to me. What was that? Why was I thinking of Bode now? What was it about me that people were always telling me I know where to find them? I guess I am just tired. It has been a hectic weekend. The earlier I caught some rest against work tomorrow the better for me.
“Thank you for the ride sir,” I said again
“Call me Andrew, everyone calls me that.”
I nodded but I just could not. I was comfortable addressing him that way. I had heard him say that to others, but we all stuck with the “sir thing”.
It seemed out of place in the organisation to use first name basis although it was a recent advice by management not enforced especially with people in the workforce old enough to be your parents. The culture was gradually changing, but it still had a long way to go.
“See you at work tomorrow. Rest all you can. It’s a hectic week ahead with reports and meetings you can’t but attend. Welcome to Management,” he said giving me a military salute which earned him a smile.
He got into his car and drove off while I stood with my luggage by my feet and waved till the car was out of sight. I slowly walked into my house with a myriad of emotions. I was tired, feeling horrible and somewhere inside a good feeling I could not describe.
All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to people living or dead is purely coincidental.
Image used from Goggle.
A girl’s best friend 2
I am back at my desk typing away the report on our just concluded visit to Chief Idowu. I highlight recommendation on business possibilities using the strength, weakness, threat and opportunities analysis for a compelling argument for the potential and viability of this new client.
I had to research on his associates and business dealings with both the private and public sector, locally and internationally and every information I could find linked to him. While working on this report, I realised how large his business was and his dealings across the different sectors of the economy. I built a client network chain and knew if we worked on this relationships well, we would be smiling more at the office.
Time must have flown because the next time I looked at my watch, lunch time had passed. Lana was not back then. She probably would be closing from the Managers office. This evening would not be a nice one. I was no prophet but could predict her reaction.
I settled back to work while I took out a Lucozade sports drink from my bag, that should keep me till the close of work and if Lana was a good spot we could hang out tonight at one of the Chinese restaurants to celebrate this new deal of ours. Thinking of that an idea just popped into my head, okay maybe it was a bribe, but It was my ticket to Chinese tonight and perhaps a movie on a Monday night. I started on Lana’s report since Chief Idowu was the same source I copied and pasted mine but focused on the subsidiary.
It was surprising to know that Chief Idowu’s son owned the subsidiary. He had the majority shares in the company with Chief having just 15%. I looked at the documents signed by his son. That was quite confusing considering that we had dealt exclusively with Chief. Getting a bit apprehensive, I cross checked the signatures on the documents for chief and that of Ideal Oil and Gas Limited. I was not aware how I held my breath because if they were the same and Chief signed for his son, then this account would not go through till we had the appropriate signature.
Thankfully, they were different. I then recalled Chief sending the documents out to his secretary, perhaps that was when they got his son to sign. As little as that oversight could stop the opening and operation of the account with the bank. The control put in place by the bank to ensure compliance with the central bank regulations was 100% as noncompliance could result in a fine massive enough to wipe out whatever profit such business would have yielded for the bank.
I underestimated what I got myself into by helping Lana with her report. There were twenty other companies with subsidiaries linked to Ideal Oil and Gas Limited. It took me a little less than three hours to do mine, but here I was, still battling with it after 7 pm when Lana came down from the Manager’s office.
Lana came down smiling contrary to my prediction. I was confused and did a little drama by touching her forehead to be sure she was not running a temperature.
“Are you okay?” I asked worriedly. The usual was to come back throwing tantrums and saying words not worthy to be repeated about her time in that office.
“Why do you ask?”
She had a twinkle in her eyes. I really could not think what must have happened in that office for her to be this excited but it had better be good.
“Girlfriend, you that I know would have barged in here all upset”.
“Oh, how terrible I have become” she had some melancholy in her voice.
“Our manager brings out my worst, and I must be ashamed at my behaviour time and time again. I just figured out today that the more I got upset, the longer I spent in that office and the higher the probability of being called back. He seemed to find every unimaginable report to get ready.Today was the worst of it all. I had to keep going into the computer system to look for figures and information and work on all sorts of reports. I, Lana prepared the profitability management report today and in the midst of a terrible situation, I learnt something valuable to my career.”
“It still does not account for your cheerful disposition.”
“What you can’t change you adapt. I am trying to see the silver lining in my current predicament.”
“Thank God he is easy to look on the eyes otherwise, it would have been more of a nightmare.”
It was not news to any of us in the office. The manager was a handsome young son of a wealthy business mogul who was a bosom friend of the Managing Director of the Bank. He studied Economics at London School of Economics and a Master’s degree in Business Administration from Harvard. He was offered the opportunity to work in the bank and took it rather than taking the next in line at his father’s company. Others from outside did consider him a good catch but in here, we were not able to see beyond his scowl and in a way that must have kept most of the ladies in check.
I stood up and held Lana at arm’s length. I touched her head again. Surely she had to be running a temperature.
She shrugged and sat on her desk.
“Now is the time to start my bit.”
“I am speechless. I don’t get this new you, and it is freaking me out.”
“You should be happy, imagine all my whining grating your ears.”
“I would love that and not be thinking we might have to wind up at the psychiatric hospital tonight as this is so not you.”
“I got a headache right now, and I still have the Ideal Oil and Gas report to finish”, Lana said using her fingers to massage her temple.
“I would be leaving here 10 pm or 11 pm. Almost midnight. I might have to crash at your place tonight. Too late to go home. I have to call my Mum.”
“I already did that. Called your Mum and finished your report.”
I see the amazement on Lana’s face with eyes opened wide. I push the file towards her.
“It’s all in there printed. I can forward the soft copy to you.”
She scanned the file and boy did I see it coming?
It was just some few drops of tears cascading down her face, and I honestly thought it was a joke until she had her head over the desk and howling like a baby. They were heart racking sobs as her body shook. I was not sure anymore what the issue was, but one thing I knew for sure was we both needed food.
In one moment she had gone from crazy to emotional.
I shut down both our computers, picked our bags and practically dragged her out as the sobbing subsided.
The office looked deserted. We were the only ones left with the night shift security personnel outside and the Manager upstairs.
I could deal with Lana and her smiles, her jokes and crazy outbursts but an emotional not together Lana – I was at my loose end.
We got into my car, and I waited so she could pull herself together and drove to one of our favourite Chinese restaurant on the Island.
You could all think I am crazy but food might help, and I was not going to pass up our need to celebrate our career breakthrough which was only this morning but looked like a lifetime away considering all that had happened since then.
I drove into the parking lot in front of the restaurant.
“Food will do us some good at this point. I doubt if you have eaten anything today.” I said to her observing her face.
She had stopped crying and was just sniffing. I pulled a Kleenex from the pack on the dashboard and handed it over to her to clean her face.
“You might want to redo your makeup. The light will come on if you use the mirror by your side.”
“I will be okay.”
“Great! Let’s go. We can talk over the meal if you want to.”
We stepped in and looked for a table of two at the downstairs lobby. There was none available so we went upstairs and settled for one on the far left wing of the room overlooking a window.
Once we sat down a waiter came with the menu. I chose Chinese fried rice with chilli prawn sauce, spring rolls and a glass of Chapman for starters. Lana ordered for same but opted for noodles instead of rice.
We were given a hot napkin to wipe our hands followed by our glass of Chapman and spring rolls.
The meal took about twenty minutes which was the norm here as they prepared on order with the finest of herbs and spices. The catch here for me was the fact that I could get the sauces in the hottest of spices close to that of our local hot dish. When you wanted a good Chinese meal on the island with a quiet ambience, this was one of the places to come.
I discovered the restaurant by accident. On a particular day, I lost my way and found myself on Karimu Kotun street. I did the unlikely, I drove in and had a meal. Then continued finding my way home.
“So?” a single word meaning,”what is the story? spill it all out.”
Sipping her drink she smiled.
“Back at that office, with the way I was used by the manager today, I felt like killing him. He is this wicked taskmaster that keeps gruelling you with so much work and without a break.”
“It can’t be that bad,” I offered.
“I was standing more than sitting down in the hours I was spent in his office with this 4-inch shoes I am wearing. First, it was my report he found fault with every word there. Correcting my tenses and advising on what synonyms to use, then he checked every figure in the report to ascertain its accuracy. That task alone took almost two hours. As soon as we finished that, we started on the management report that he was going to teach me and going forward I would be in charge of it.”
“The guy is training you for management.”
“Whose side are you on?”
“No one. It’s not a side thing. I am just objective. Our manager is no saint in his leadership style, but he seems to have a knack for teaching us all he knows which is a good thing. The problem is you appear to be the one he is teaching the most which should tell you something about your career here.”
“Thankfully, we agree his leadership style is flawed, but all these teachings are to the detriment of my work output. I f you had not helped with the report, I would be behind schedule today. Realising all you did to help out just made me emotional. I am angry at him, myself and the whole situation. What would I do without you? How did I get so lucky to have you in my life and at my workplace? I probably would still be back there working on the report, but here I am, dining away.
I should feel guilty about it, but I am not because you have made it easy to accept your help. You even knew ahead to call my mum”.
I raise my hands in mock surrender.
“Please cut out this emotional talk, Lana. It’s something you would have done for me.”
“You think so?”
I don’t Peju. I would have started the report but not finish it in the record time you did. You are a girl’s best friend.”
“Lana, don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.”
I do not take too well with being praised.
“I did what I have to do, and that was it.”
Our hot steamy meal came, and my belly betrayed me with a loud rumbling.
“Thank God the meal is here!” I exclaimed a little embarrassed.
“You must be famished. Did you eat lunch?” she looked at me accusingly. I have a history for skipping meals.
“No, I took a bottle of Lucozade sport hoping it did what they said it would do. I needed water in my system.”
“What about you?”
She looked at me guiltily. “I ate pounded yam and egusi soup with goat meat.”
“In that office, you were slaving away?” I mimicked her.
“The manager ordered for it and asked if I wanted. The least I could do for myself was spend his money although that wouldn’t have left a dent in his account like what this meal would do to ours.”
“Lana please relax, this meal would not make you bankrupt. It is not up to the cost of that your perfume you order from Paris. I would research how much that perfume cost in Naira including home delivery.
“Okay” holding her fork in her left hand she is waving at me.
“You wouldn’t dare.”
“I sure wouldn’t if you keep pointing that fork at me considering the fact you desperately wanted to kill someone earlier today.”
“What about the part of how easy on the eyes the Manager is”
She laughed. “I was almost bursting out with laughter with the look on your face when I said that.”
“But seriously do I sense someone falling for the Manager.”
“Not on your life,” she frowns.
“What’s so bad about it? He is young, not married good looking and from a wealthy home.”
“I do not do office romance.”
“How do you know what you don’t do? There has been no one apart from Bode, and that was three years ago.”
The name slipped out. We had agreed never to talk about him.
“Wow! Where did that come from I don’t know what happened and I don’t care to know, but it is about time you move back to him or move on. Give yourself the luxury of having a relationship.”
I could as well have been talking to myself. Lana went about her meal like she had not heard a word I said. She always did that “switch off” thing.
“You don’t want to talk?” I goaded her.
“I want to but not about Bode.”
“Not Bode but is there any hope for some guy out there in the future?”
“Let’s say I am not looking for any relationship. I just want to build my career.”
I dropped my cutlery with a clanging noise loud enough for everyone in that hall to hear.I looked around apart from a large group at the end.We were alone.
“Your career is what you are doing now. With the inflow you had today and those subsidiaries and links that the company has, you will be making senior manager in less than five years if you get promoted every year. However, I am not discussing your career as you have that mapped out. There is life after your career. A life that would always be even at the end of a career.”
“Why do you think you can’t have both?”
“I just know it. I can’t explain, but I would not be this driven with kids and all. In school while others were chasing boys and parties I was all my books and novels. I think it’s the same. You get distracted and lose focus before you realise it you have missed all that you have struggled to attain. For what Peju. A marriage others are dying to get out. I am okay where I am and seek for none of that.”
I nodded my head like I understood. I did not. We were both in our mid-twenties. While others like me dreamt of getting married and settling down to have a family. Lana could not be bothered. I was worried, but I hoped I need not be.
We had barely finished our meal when the waiter came back with a bottle of Moet Champagne and two wine glasses. I looked at the waiter and Lana.
“Did you order for this?”
Lana has been behaving weird which she just explained, but this champagne bit is sending red lights that there might be more problem than she is letting on.
“It is complimentary Madam. It is an order for you by a gentleman. He pointed to the group of people at the end. There were about seven of them all dressed up in corporate wears. They must be here for a business dinner. I scanned some of the faces I could see but none was familiar, and none was looking at our table.
“Please take it back to him. No thank you”, I was upset.
“It is complimentary Peju. Read the card and do so smiling. He is most likely watching you.”
Lana was back in her element. Her eyes were twinkling. The girl was both a jewel and pain.
Against my better judgement, I picked the card smiling.
It was a blank card with the words “enjoy your meal written on it. No name.
So I smile like a robot and Lana says to the waiter
“Thank the gentleman for us. It was most kind of him, but we can’t accept.”
“This is the time to escape Peju. If we are fast enough, he won’t catch up with us, and if he does, please let us be on our best behaviour he might be a prospective client.”
“Oh my God,” I close my eyes trying to process what Lana has just said.
“We are here, and all you are thinking is a lead? Do you do anything else other than thinking about clients and leads? I am also in this profession you know.”
“This is Lagos, make use of all opportunities.”
I placed the cash in the receipt folder with extra change for the waiter.
We picked up our bags and headed out. All I wanted to do was run but we walked rather majestically.
Fortunately, no one tried to follow us or meet us downstairs.
I broke into a run towards my car and drove straight home. The idea of going to the cinema abandoned. I will watch a movie at home. Lana was staying over at my house. She has some few suits and her toiletries at my place for days like this.
All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to people living or dead is purely coincidental.
Image from Goggle.