Omo washe omo rishe #7

Letting my hair down…….

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polka dot

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 employer 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.
I nodded.
“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.

Omo washe Omo rishe #6

Full circle

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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.

Omo washe Omo rishe #5

A girl’s best friend 2

o-HAPPY-BUSINESS-WOMAN-facebookI 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.

 

 

My Complicated Relationship With Makeup As An Indian Woman — Discover

Dipsika Thakur writes about makeup, the myth of “empowerment,” and tradition: “The daily ritual of Lacto Calamine, Pond’s powder, and sindoor was my introduction to makeup—makeup as obeisance, as conjugal duty, and as habit.”

via My Complicated Relationship With Makeup As An Indian Woman — Discover

Omo washe Omo rishe #4

A girl’s best friend

o-HAPPY-BUSINESS-WOMAN-facebook

The distance to Chief Idowu’s office from ours should have been short but ended up being long because of the crawling traffic. We could have walked but it was against the organisation’s policy to go out on calls without the provided cars.

Lana had this far away look. I stare at her thoughtfully. My tongue ready to start its usual sprint race but I decided otherwise and left her to her thoughts. She would tell what was on her mind when ready.

I knew her break up with Bode had affected her more than she let out. I had threatened hell and brimstone to make Bode pay for the way he had treated her. I remember how ballistic I had gone when she mentioned casually that Bode and she were no longer together. But I was dumbstruck when she said me it was her who had called it off and was not ready to give any explanation. We kept going back and forth as I wanted to hear the whole story to help me understand her reasons, but no, Lana would not divulge any details claiming it was not worth recounting. I was more confused than ever. I asked her if she had two timed Bode. That was a ridiculous thought but the secrecy surrounding the story left me thinking crazy things!

Lana smiled and patted my shoulder that day without any disappointment. “Peju I wish I could tell you that was it but sorry, there is no story to tell. Just know that Bode is a much better person than your friend here.”

Three years after, I still was not previewed to the full story and had long given up. The last time I brought it up, she jokingly said she would spill the story for my itchy ears when we both turned Fifty years.There was no point if Lana said something she kept to her word. It was a good trait in a friend but when you were at the receiving end. It was no longer admirable.

My friend, Lana, was one of the few beautiful girls left on the earth but what drew you most to her was how oblivious she was to it. She was completely unaware of her looks and the effect it had on people. She could put on a sack of potatoes and would have guys ogling and ladies ahhing and oohing. That was her. She was the most genuine and friendly person I had come across and that’s quite a number in my short stay on earth. Pretty faces with no substance and when they speak you get a glimpse of their real personality and all their beauty fades right before your eyes.

A girl’s true best friend. What you see is what you get with her. She never saw the bad in people.
She only saw bad moments and responses.

I smile as I recall the first day I met her. It was at the National Youth Service Orientation Camp, Lagos. She was ahead of me in the queue to pick up our kit. It was her gorgeous well-manicured nails, painted and designed in three colours that drew my attention. I was curious and so I tapped her to say lovely nails and I won’t forget that smile. She had a smile ready for a stranger.
“Lovely nails you got there,” I said.
“Thanks, hun,” she looked at it and laughed.
“My cousin’s dream is to have a nail outfit when she finishes school and as many people who offer to be guinea pigs to try out her crazy ideas with a promise for a lifetime membership of free service. I might not be interested but I don’t want to loose out when her place becomes the mecca of nails for the whole world. But I think my fear of her wrath is the real reason.”
She said lowering her voice in comradeship, “don’t tell her.”
I laughed.”I won’t but do you think she would do mine?
“It’s just for you to ask and she is down with her ammunition of nail paints and instruments.”

We got talking like two long lost friends and the rather long frustrating queue became a delight.

Kit collected, we went to the next line to get our meal ticket and then the next line for our rooms. Everything here seemed to be about queues. There were incidences we found ourselves in the wrong line after being on it for hours or having others mostly females like us who thought they were smarter and would join at the front with a miserable, “please excuse me.” On one of the occasions, the girls were close to boxing themselves. The weather was not helpful as the sun shone it brightest and emitted the most fierce-some of its heat mercilessly on us.

The hostel was a large hall with thirty bunk beds to accommodate sixty of us. It was chaotic. I saw Lana did a double take when she got into the room. She’d been turning her cute nose since we got into the block but did not say a word.I had hoped I that our room would be a contrast to the dirt and disarray we saw outside but I guess the situation was bleak and hopeless.Unfortunately, inside our block was no different

We found a vacant bunk at the end of the hall. I offered her first choice. She just stared and shrugged.” You can have any I am not particular.”

I took the up bunk. I hated strangers staying on my bed so being up was discouraging enough for anyone wanting to venture onto my bed.
Putting my bags down, I started sorting my things into the wardrobe. Lana was still standing looking lost.
It was then I noticed she did not have a box or bag so I asked,”where are your things?”
“Not here.” A short answer for someone who had been chatty all morning.
“Do you want me to lay your bed? I have an extra bed set so no one takes your bed.”
“Sure that would be kind,” she said as she smiled her winning smile showing her dimples on the left cheek.
We were done and left for lunch at the cafeteria. Unfortunately, we met another long queue.
“Perhaps we should try the food vendors. There should be less crowd if we are paying”, she said to me but the lady behind me informed us that she had just left there and it was crazy.

Finally, we got to the front of the queue and it was Eba and Egusi soup left. I was too hungry to care. It was not my first choice but choices here seemed to be quite limited. It was survival.
We both took the miserable looking meal and found two vacant seats to eat.
I ate mine. Surprisingly, I finished rather quickly and was left ogling at Lana’s own which I would not have minded if she offered considering how she was picking at hers. My last meal had been in the morning and with all the plethora of queues we had been subjected to, there was no time to look for something else to eat.

After the meal, we left for the hostel but Lana was still without her belongings. I asked her where it was so I could help. It was then she told me sadly she was not staying.
I felt like a fool making the bed for her and asking her to choose where to stay when all along she knew she was not staying.
“ I had plans to sleep in today and leave for my house tomorrow morning to bring my things but she shrugged threw her hands about and said, ” I can’t.”
I knew what she meant. I would have opted for out if I had the option too.
“I will be back tomorrow morning. I will commute from home for the three weeks we are here.”
“Wow! Okay,” I said not to happy.
Out of the blues, she says to me.”Ditch here, come and stay at my place. The house is big and my parents won’t mind. You’ll have a room of your own.
I did not readily jump at the offer. I had just met her at camp. How was I sure that I would be in safe hands. Not with all the gory stories you heard about Lagos. I came from a quiet nothing – happening town in the middle belt of the country. And I was ready to catch all the fun and excitement I had heard went on during the camp. I did not come this far to be a passerby. I must be involved.
“I‘ll think about it,” I said. Although, I knew I would do no such thing.

The three weeks of camp was absolute fun. Lana was funny, straightforward and down to earth. I visited her house one of the weekends and many other weekends during the service year.
Lana was a people person but did not do well dealing with a crowd at close quarters. Hence, the issue of staying on during camp. I recall thinking that she must be one of those spoilt brats born with a silver spoon. However, she was none of that.

Lana was still in dream land whereas I was out of my reverie, snapping my fingers in front of her face with an attitude I say to her, “You are in a far away land. A penny for your thoughts.”
She blinks and stares lost. Then smiles that her trademark smile which spreads across her face lighting the eyes and making you wish you could place the earth in her palms or just give her whatever requests she made.
“Not in a far away land, Peju it was a never – ever land. But remind me to let you know if it ever comes true.”
The car stops and we arrive at Chief Idowu’soffice.
“Girlfriend,” as I love to call her. “We are here, let the Midas touch begin.”

We both step out from the car looking like models stepping out of a Vogue magazine. I breathe in and out. There should not be anything less that the figure I had given my manager.Lana reaches out to hold my hand in a bid to reassure me as we walked into the reception area of the gigantic office complex of Ideal Oil and Gas.

The visit to the company was our first.Our previous meetings had been more on the phone and one occasion at the Ikoyi Club but like most of the buildings in this area, you could almost be sure you were in Europe or America. The furnishing and finishing were top notch.

As we walked to the reception, you could hear the click of our Louboutin shoes on the marble floor. The floor was a picture of rock and stones under crystal clear water. At first, I felt like I was going to step into the water but it was just a picture. I had to take my eyes away to walk on it.
“First time?” The reception asked as she smiled.
“It always has that effect on people but they get used to it.”
“Chief Idowu is expecting us for 9 am,” I informed her.
“Yes, he has asked for you to come up immediately.”
“Thank you,” we both said simultaneously and got into the lift to the 16th floor.

In the lift, we were lucky to be alone.
“Gosh,” Lana exclaimed as she beats her forehead.
“I must have looked like a complete idiot over that flooring. I was so afraid to walk like I was stepping into a rocky place with stones and the water will splash on my shoes.”
I smiled, so I was not the only one and if you had watched Lana walk on that floor no one would believe she was going through that. Looks could be deceptive.
I laughed. “But you walked like you did not see anything there.”
“Peju, in this Lagos, you must represent o! as I was panicking on the inside, my head was held high even if I had to fall on the floor, I must do it with dignity.

“Hmmm, you Lagos people, Eko for show.”
“Stop saying we Lagos people. You have been here since service year and you don’t look like anyone leaving this Lagos so you are one too.” she reprimanded me.
“It should not be that hard learning from you,” I muttered sarcastically.
“I heard that,” she said rolling her eyes.
The lift opened and we stepped into Chief Idowu’s lobby, to be ushered in by his Secretary.

We both curtseyed in the traditional Yoruba way to greet Chief. We might be in a formal setting but seeing those grey hairs over his head did us in. It must have been a reflex action which played to our advantage. We later found out that singular act endeared us to Chief Idowu.

We left his office with more than we anticipated; the N500 million and Lana wickedly got N1 billion call deposit from another of Chief’s subsidiary. It was the heavens smiling on us. She just asked chief if he had any free funds for seven days that he could earn interest on and get his funds when he needed it.
Chief said they were working on purchasing a shipping vessel but the deal did not go through and they had to start bargaining with other company from the scratch meanwhile they had already secured the funds from his bankers.

While we were at his office, we had behaved ourselves like getting that amount of funds was an everyday occurrence.

The moment we stepped back into the lift and alone. We were jumping and dancing like crazy. We returned to our dignified selves as soon as the door opened.

I signed out at the reception and had more chit chat with the receptionist. We probably would be in and out of this building in the coming days.
As soon at we hit the floor again, I did the Lagos girl catwalk without looking at the down, of course, no amount of talk from Lana can get that confidence pose looking at those floors. I’ll have to ask Chief the story behind it. That was the first of its kind I was seeing.

In the car, we were like two crazy girls. We screamed, hugged ourselves screamed again and started fanning ourselves in the cold car with our hands.
Back at the office, I walked in feeling two feet taller. I was bursting with excitement while Lana had this calm exterior like nothing had happened.
“How do you do it?” I hissed.
“Do what?” She asked unaware of what I meant.
“Behave like nothing affects you. I can barely contain myself with excitement and there you are like the ice princess looking so fresh and calm through it all.”
Lana smiled and shook her head.
“If only you knew, I wish I could be like you all emotion and scattered. I have my moments like in the lift and the car but out here my dear, I can’t let loose not because I don’t want to but I just don’t know how.”

Here, I was doing everything within me not to run off to the Managers office and drop the cheque for him to see, I wanted to see the look on his face. Lana and I have just made it for him this week. The regional managers weekly meeting was his time to shine. He had to be more than grateful to us.
On entering his office, he had this frown on his face as he was looking at something on his screen. He did not lift his head even though he knew someone had come into his office.
“So?” he said without even looking at us which was more of a question than a statement.
“Sir, we were not able to get the amount I stated earlier but he gave us this,” I say as I hand the cheques over to him.
He looked at us with that scowl on his face taking the two cheques from me.
In one happy second, there was this huge smile on his face as he read the figure. It was, in fact, the first time I saw him smile. I held my breath because I had never thought that man could be that human. It was surprising how a smile can transform a face. He was human after all and not a monster.

My Manager stood up and stretched his hands to give us a handshake.
“This is a great job.”
“Well done ladies.”
“Please take the cheques and get them booked in.”
As we turned to leave, he called out.
“Lana, let’s go over your report.”
I did not know when I let out a groan that I had to change quickly to a cough
“ Is there a problem?” he asked his scowl back in place.
“No, sir I had something stuck in my throat, I lied.”
I left the office not without looking at Lana and offering her my sympathy with my eyes.
The rest of her morning till midday would be spent doing mundane things for him.
” I am so disappointed and feel like a burst balloon.”
Well, Lana and I owe it to celebrate tonight after work.
If he didn’t celebrate us, we would celebrate ourselves.

 

Omo washe omo rishe #3

I choose my career 2

office-lady
After a long night, I stood up to leave. I jokingly said if we were not careful we might check the time and realise it’s the morning of the next day. Indeed glancing at my watch, it’s already midnight. He also stood up and the next minute he was was one knee staring into my eyes.

“What are you doing?” I asked, my eyes wide with surprise. I had always dreamt of being proposed in the old English way and this guy who stole my heart without even trying to, was here, on his knees. “Olulana Oluwatooni, I love you from the first day I saw you but not until being way did I realise how much it hurts not to have you around. I want you, not as a girlfriend. I want you as my fiancée. The girl I would get married to and be the mother of my kids. I will support you to be the best you can be in all your goals, career and ambition.

“Olulana Oluwatooni, I love you from the first day I saw you but not until being away, did I realise how much it hurts not to have you around. I want you, not as a girlfriend. I want you as my fiancée. The girl I would get married to and who would be the mother of my kids. I will support you to be the best you can be in all your goals, career and ambition.
Now that part of marriage and mother of kids was quite scary but I was enjoying my Cinderella moment. This proposal topped the chart.

Being a Bimbo Odukoya mentee, I had learned earlier never to rubbish a guy who proposes to you. It took a lot of courage for him to walk up to you and if you don’t accept his proposal do not wound him and kill his self-esteem in the process. So I had my beautiful little speech of how I appreciate the fact that they considered me and how it was any girl’s dream come true. However, it was unlikely that I would be the one who would make them wake up with a smile each morning, grateful to God for this blessing in their lives some ten to twenty years later. That the girl is out there waiting for them and they needed to find her.

It was my signature rejection sentence. I never wasted their time and I often hoped that when I was to accept it would be that fast.

However, for some reason, I could not reject his proposal neither could I accept it. So I only told him, “Thank you”, and if he could, please give me more time to think it through.
In my discussion with friends, I had often berated girls who gave months and years for a response. I said you either knew it or you don’t.At that moment, I learnt never be too quick to judge people.

The month I graduated from the University and five months after he asked I gave him my consent.I had come into Lagos during the week. He was at my place over the weekend, to see me. He chatted with both my mum and I.It was surprising how he could hold her attention for so long. I could tell she was having a great time and secretly I knew she would be happy if only she knew but I was not going to tell my folks. I would be forced to take him round all my uncles and introduce him. He brought some chocolate chip biscuits that day which became my life addiction. Lucky me I do not have to visit the gym to keep the fats down.

I had come into Lagos during the week and on over the weekend, he was there to see me. He chatted with both my mum and I.It was surprising how he could hold her attention for so long. I could tell she was having a great time and knew she would be happy if only she knew but I was not going to tell my folks. I would be forced to take him round all my uncles and introduce him.I was not ready for that yet. He brought some chocolate chip cookies that day which became my life addiction. Luckily, I do not have to visit the gym to keep the fats down.

“You will get your answer today,” I said to him as I walked him out.

“Whatever the answer is, please don’t look back just keep going. I am not sure why I opted for that but somewhere I was afraid of any public display of affection.I walked away and shouted, “It’s a yes!” Bode took a leap into the air and was about to turn back and I said,

“No, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

We started our whirlwind romance and I must confess he made me feel like a princess. I only had to cough or sneeze and Bode was doing everything and anything.

I remember a time he came to the house and met my Dad in the living room. The interrogation by my Father was second to none. There behind the doors as I listened I was mortified.

“Where did you meet my daughter?” My Dad asked.
“We attended the same school sir,” he replied.
“You were in the same class?” he asked with raised eyebrows.
“Oh no sir, I graduated a year before her.”
“So what do you do now?”
“I work with a bank sir,”
“what bank and as what?”
“Marble Bank, I work in the IT Department, sir.”

The man was firing him questions on a full cylinder but you could see how calm and confident Bode was, not in an arrogant way but in an endearing way. I saw a twitch of a smile on the corners of his mouth although he appeared stern and strict.

“So what are your intentions for my daughter?”
“I love her sir, and with your approval, I would like to spend the rest of my life with her.”

The next question blew my mind.Did I see it coming? Who asks a prospective son-in-law such questions.

“What is the number of girls before my daughter have you said this same line to?”

“None sir.”
“None?”, He queried.
“How many of this none girls have you had sex with?”

At that point, I had never been more embarrassed in my life. But the guy took all so well. I guess when you have nothing to hide some issues don’t bother you. But Dad was taking this too far.

“None sir,” he replied.

My father guffawed and told him, “Tell that to the birds. You and I know that is not possible. I am a man and a young one once so you do not need to lie to me.”

It was time to stop this interrogation. I retreated and came in with a presence of one oblivious to their conversation.

“Hi Bode, you did not say you were coming”. I say as I take a seat beside my Dad facing Bode.
“I came to the area and decided to say hello before leaving.”
“Daddy meet my friend Bode Coker. We went to the same school”.
“We’ve already met”. He grunted and went back to reading his newspaper as if he had not been the one interrogating the young man before I came in.

Bode and I chit chatted for a while. We tried to involve my Dad in the chat but he appeared engrossed in his newspaper, which I knew was a facade and everything we said was going through his ears. My Dad did not leave the room. But not too long, Bode announced he was leaving.

Outside I apologised to Bode on my Dad’s behalf.
He laughed, “you mean you heard all that?”
“Don’t mind him. He is too protective of his daughters. When Nekan, my elder sister married, you would think the man was contesting for the Senate,” I retorted still miffed at my Dad.
“I guess that is what any father would do and I don’t blame him”, Bode said.
I thought it was cool of him to take it that way. I sure was going to have a word with him when I went back inside.

Exactly a year, after I agreed to go out with Bode. I started feeling I needed space. Bode smothered me with too much affection and I began to feel I needed my freedom. I had to consider Bode on weekends and I was missing out on much other fun and outing with my girlfriends.

Bode was in his second year of work with Marble Bank. He was very been generous with his time and money. In between the numerous International exams, he was writing he still had time for me.

On a typical day, he could call four or more times. Initially, I loved it but somewhere down the line, I started getting irritated. To top it all, he usually picked me up from work on Fridays without a car.

We would both wait at the bus stop beside my office while my colleagues who had spent the same years in banking with him would drive off in their cars. I couldn’t explain it but after a while, It began to bother me why he could not just buy himself a car. It got to a point that nothing Bode did was right.I saw faults in almost everything.

One faithful Friday, when he called to inform me, he was on his way to pick me from work.I told him not to worry that I would be going home with a colleague from now on. I could sense the shock in the long silence that followed my announcement on the other side of the phone. Then asked when I decided that.
“Last week,” I answered without thinking.
“Lana, you are just telling me. I could have made other plans you know.”
“For reasons, I still can not explain. Perhaps a bad day at work but I still am not sure that was why. I just lashed back.
” Bode Coker, I do not owe you an explanation for what I do or do not do. You are neither my father nor my boss.”
The words were out not the way I meant it but I was too upset to care.
“Are you okay? Did something happen at work?”
I raised my voice, “Don’t patronise me, Bode.”

Why does he know all the right things to say and do. With Bode, he was just this perfect guy and at this moment. He was holding back whatever he felt to get the situation resolved.

I for one must have gone crazy. I was not sure what I wanted in the relationship anymore.
He asked if we could still see during the weekend. I said I wanted to be alone.He further inquired if he had done anything to offend me.

The truth was he had not but I was beginning to feel suffocated in the relationship. We had our first major fight that day. I was the one raising my voice. But you could hear his smooth, soothing voice enough to melt a candy. But it had no effect on me. I seem to have become steel or a rock.

He gave me my space for a whole week. He would call, I won’t pick his calls, he sent dozens of text messages that I had stopped reading so that there was no need to reply.

Sunday evening, the next weekend, I met Bode at the door of my house as I came back from an outing with some of my girlfriends. I was surprised to see him. We had not spoken in seven days. Although my heart was bleeding, I joked that I survived without him. I missed the text he sent on Friday that he was coming as I had stopped reading his text messages.

We sat outside the house. The sky was dark speckled with tiny stars appearing as white dots just like the night he proposed.
The first thing he wanted to know was if I was okay.
I loved Bode and still do but I was chasing my demons. I was the problem, not him.
Then he said we needed to talk.

“Lana, have I done anything to offend you?” He asked.

I said no. How do I explain the mirage and paradox of feelings, all battling on the inside of me?
“You say I have not offended you but you are upset with me and don’t want to see me. I don’t get it. You are acting strangely,” he said.
“I am not acting strange and you are taking the matter more serious than it is,” I argued.

There were arguments. I said hurtful things I was not proud of and it was out.

“I need a break from this relationship.”

I saw shock and then slowly pain in those eyes.

And he asked,” Is there someone else?”
“No,” I reassured him and didn’t know why I did. Maybe it was because a part of me still wanted this relationship.

“I am not asking for a break because there is someone else. I am asking for a break becauseI feel like I am losing myself. I don’t know who I am anymore. Lana is gone.The Lana you see that is your ideal Lana and that is not me. I need to find and keep myself. I love you Bode but I need to do this for me, for us.”

Tears welled up in my eyes and I willed them to stay put. A drop was the excuse Bode needed to hold me and I doubted if I had the strength not to recede on the breakup and something worse might happen in the future. It was better this way. Now is the time we get to stay apart and reassess our relationship.

He was quiet for a long time.
“How long do you need this break?” he asked.
I shrugged my shoulders. “I don’t know but I will call you. Please don’t call me. I need to think this through. I will call you.”
” You sure this is what you want” That was Bode even at that moment, he was looking out for me.
“Yeah,” I nodded.
“Lana, remember all I said the day I asked you out. I do not need to reassess this relationship to know if I love you enough to marry you. I want you in my present and future. I have made a life commitment to you. I will give you all the time you need. One month, three years, ten years. I will be waiting. I won’t look for you. You know where to find me.”

He stood up and walked away never turning back. I saw the sadness in those eyes. He suddenly seemed to have aged before my eyes. I was hurting. I could feel pain in my heart which must have been one tenth of what Bode was feeling.

I asked myself what have I done. My stubborn heart said to me, I needed to do this. I wanted to call him back and apologise but I also knew that as much as I loved Bode, This was for both of us to find out if we wanted this relationship or not.

The tears that were threatening to fall fell freely down my face like a dam of water let loose. I got into the house and met my mum in the living room.
She was alarmed when she saw my tears.
I just sat down beside her tired. How do I explain to her what I could not explain to myself?
“Is it Bode?” She asked
“Is he cheating on you?” she inquired further.
“No,” I answered. That was a preposterous thought. If only she knew.
” Bode seems a very responsible guy. Give it time then call him and talk things over. There are issues in all relationships which are very normal but how you handle those issues are what matters. You’ll be okay my dear. Don’t let it be too long. Never think because just 21, you have all the time. Men like Bode are hard to come by and he seems just the right guy for you. You both are just right for each other.”

My mum’s words just added to my misery and confusion. Was it not better for Bode and me to break up than to end up getting married and looking for a way out.
I thanked my dear mum and left for my room. I just needed a break it was not a total breakup. I tried to convince myself.

I never called Bode. Six months later, I called him on his birthday but his phone was off. Then four months later during the Christmas holidays, his phone was still off.
I visited his office.I learnt he had been moved to the London office four months back on a six months training course.

I fumed and was upset that he had moved out of the country without getting in touch with me I was too angry to bother trying to find him and I felt it was just a good excuse to move on. If he wanted the relationship, he definitely would have called.

A little voice in my head reminded me that I specifically told him not to call me. Bode being the perfect gentleman he was, obliged my request. He had also told me I knew where to find him.But the other part of me argued. It was silly of him not to have contacted when he was leaving the country for six months.

I do not know why I always thought that Bode will be there forever and I could always go back at any time.

In the period we had separated, I did not start any relationship. I was not looking for a relationship. I was too in love with my career to think marriage or to settle down. The husband and kids will slow down my advancement on the corporate ladder. I was an all for or nothing kind of person. I did not do anything in bits and I feared that marriage would tie me down.

So being without Bode was not a licence to look for another relationship right away.I guess in another ten years when I have made senior manager. I would be considering settling down and hopefully, the right person would come my way. If not adopt a kid or two and become a single mother. I would have considered getting any guy to sire the children for me. Although, I know I had wandered away from God since my first year at work I was not too far gone, to go about having children out of wedlock. It looked like charity to adopt. The kids needed a home and I needed kids. That is if the state would give them to a single parent.

I had my life planned out as I had always done. My life has been together the way I wanted.There was nothing out of control and no surprises. My relationship with Bode was great while it lasted. There had never been room for a relationship in my plans. Perhaps I was too selfish to think of others but myself and what I wanted.

In School, all I did was read and study to distraction. My love was my academics, my goals and my aspirations. I let my guards down with Bode but his love was not enough to satisfy me and make up for where I was heading to in life. I know he promised to back me up on my career but it was a whole more than words. Pregnancies will come and knock you one step backwards; perhaps two or three if you decide to have that many kids.Then the guilt you would feel in leaving them behind with helps, nannies and chauffeurs. I see older colleagues at work juggle and seem to balance it but I also the failures too, mishaps and near disaster stories.

I am glad or so I think to leave home each day without the baggage of family – work life balance and come back every evening to sleep. For weekends and holidays, I hit rock bottom wishing for a family to share the moments with but all that is out of the windows by Monday morning. The cycle continues.

I never heard from Bode and the years have ahead. I progressed in my career beyond my dreams and was pleased with myself. Somewhere the key to that part of my life was locked and thrown away. I was the architect of my misfortune and there was no one to blame but myself.

Story continues

Dear Readers,
Your thoughts and comments on Lana are welcome.
I would love to read from you. You can tweet, post comments on our Facebook page or use the blog.The links to our twitter and facebook are on the blog page.
1.What could have driven her to push out something so significant in her life?
2.Should Bode have just walked out without fighting for the relationship?
3.Do we believe in love at first sight? Please share.
Life is a paradox; we want what we don’t have, hold no value for what is before us and within our reach. We have misplaced values and priorities that shape our choices. We have myths that are what they are myths but seem to be a force that controls and guides our decision making.
It might not be relationships for us. It could even be a career we let go because we felt we could not balance up or cope with the stress. It could be our kids, our relationship with our maker because we felt we had wandered too far to come back. It could be a dream that we have given up on because we never bothered to try.
We make mistakes, but we should not sit and keep crying over spilt milk. We clean our eyes, dry those tears and ask what can I do now? How can I make my life better? What can I do differently?
………………………………Simply just us, women.

 

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