Omowashe Omorishe#14

Love stole on me

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Calm

The days flew by as we got ready for Peju’s big day. We were at work in the day and hitting the road in the evenings for dress fittings, meetings with the wedding planner, makeup artist, and hairstylist for trials interior decorator for the house. There was so much to do. I was surprised at the work that had to go in for a four-hour program.

I shuddered to think what would have happened if we had not involved the services of a wedding planner because we still had so much to do on our part.
I was fatigued weeks before the wedding, and I could only imagine what Peju was going through. I looked forward to that day more with relief that all the craziness of the last couple of weeks will end.

One of the exciting moments of the event was my meeting with Phil’s Mum. I had all but forgotten about our meeting at her birthday party and how drawn I was to her. Mrs Idowu was grace and beauty personified. If getting such a woman was in the marriage package, I would not have minded being in Peju’s shoes with the kind of scary mother in law stories we hear about today. She was a breath of fresh air, and I considered Peju lucky to have her. We had several meetings with her that I had even carried on some without Peju. I did not mind she was one woman you left refreshed and ready to take on the whole world.

If I ever was asked a mentor I wanted to her to be one. She had her business and home worked out to perfection. I was surprised when I found out the companies she managed. Chief and Phil were not the only ones who had businesses in the family. She had a portfolio that rivaled theirs. I made a mental note to come back after the wedding to ask her to sign up with my Bank.

My closeness to the family during this period was a delight to see how they all related to each other with love and adoration. Phil and his father Chief treated her like royalty. She ran the Idowu Empire, but you could also see grace and kindness around her, and there was no doubt as to why the men treated her with respect and devotion.

On one of my visits, there she was in the garden wrapped in the arms of her husband. To see elderly people with love and romance after almost thirty years of marriage was one of the sweetest things I had experienced. It made me begin to reconsider my stance. That my parents’ marriage was not the defining factor of how unions would turn out and theirs was just one of the many failed ones, and there were many other successful ones like what Chief and his wife had.

To go by the saying that you could judge how a son would treat his wife by how his father treats his mother and how he treats his mother then, Peju had hers figured out for good. Love, romance and luxury in the mix.
I did not know when it happened, but I looked forward to getting married someday when I had gathered enough courage to tear down completely my walls of unbelief about marriage. I was a step ahead in the positive direction as hope ignited in my heart.
I hope to meet that special someone who would treat me right till we were old and grey haired.

*******
I let myself in with my key. It was nice to see my mother in the living room watching a soap – Tinsel.
“Mum!” I called after greeting.

“I did not know that you watch this program. I have not been able to follow up the episodes in a long while,” I said dropping into the seat beside hers.

“I stumbled into it last month and got hooked. It is interesting and engaging,” my mum said without taking her eyes off the screen.

“How are you? She asked now looking me over. You know this mother look that pierces into your soul searching for what you are not saying.

“I am good, in between work and Peju’s wedding, I am completely swamped,” I replied.

“You both need to take it slow,” she advised.

“Any news on yours?” she asked hopefully.
Trust my mum not to miss any opportunity to ask what was dearest to her heart right now – getting me married off.

“Remain expectant, mum,” I said squeezing her hands not wanting to dampen her hope. In the past, I had either ignored the questioned or teased her on how she could not wait to get rid of me

“What was it like when you first married?” I asked her as the episode came to an end.

“It was heaven. Your Dad, and I got married in England. We were in the same university and the only Nigerians in the faculty. It was only natural we got together. More so, we were from the same state and had so much in common,” she said with the most beautiful smile I had seen on her.

“I thought yours was an arranged marriage, like one of convenience,” I teased.

“No,” she said with a shudder.

“It was the norm then, but I got lucky and married to someone wanted, and not my parent’s imposition, unlike others who were not so fortunate.

“I want to hear the whole story,” I said settling into my chair gazing at her expectantly.

“There is not much to tell,” my mum said shyly.

“Okay, Mum say the little there is to tell,” I begged.

“I saw your Dad on my first day on campus. He was one of the very few African men on campus so it was easy to notice him.  He came up to me, introduced himself and told me where to find him if I needed any help. He was a year ahead of me. We became friends, and he asked me to marry him.  I did at that time; that was the best thing that could happen to me.

“You were not in love?” I asked surprised.

“I liked him enough to marry him we did and started a family with Nekan, and you came along after that.

“Mum, why don’t you want to say you fell in love with him,” I chastised her? She made it sound so businesslike and obligatory even Ronald Reagan was more passionate in his tear down the wall speech to Gorbachev in West Berlin in 1987.

“I loved your Dad and still do but sometimes love is not enough,” she said sadly.

“What would be enough?” I asked. I wanted to know perhaps it would answer some of my questions.

“Hard work, discipline, sacrifice, keeping in- laws out of your personal issues, communication and understanding,” she reeled out with ease.

“Was that what was missing for you and Dad? You live like strangers and try to hide it, but Nekan and I saw through it,” I told her emboldened by the heart to heart moment.

“We sought to stay together beyond our differences to give you girls a home, but I guess it did not make a difference, she sighed dejectedly.

“Mum,” I called and held her hands compassionately grateful for the sacrifice she made staying in an enduring marriage just for my sister and me.

“You both must have done your best. What I saw in our home, influenced my decision to stay off marriage but in the last few weeks preparing for Peju’s wedding, I saw that not all marriages end up disastrous, and there are lovely marriages to be desired out there. I can hope again that when I find love, I won’t run away this time. And in that hope I wish Dad, and you would find a way back to yourselves again,” I said encouraging and willing her to fight for her marriage.

“We are far too gone apart that love matters less now. A lot has happened with complications that are now too difficult to resolve,” she said wiping away her tears.

I was taken aback by my mum’s tears. My mum might not want to declare her love for my Dad, but you could see it shining through her eyes.
We were both carried away in our discussion that we failed not hear my Father come in. I had no idea how long he had stood there and what he had heard, but he came and stood in front of my mum wiping her eyes as he pulled her up into his arms.

“It has been too long Dupe, but we can work it out together,” my Dad whispered to her.

I slipped out leaving the new lovebirds with a song rising in my heart. Miracles do happen.
All things were going looking up pleasantly for me except I had lost Bode for good. I close my eyes and allow the pain to wash over me one last time as I vowed to move on and hope love will find me again.

Bode’s story did not end with me not calling and giving up. I knew he was back in town from a mutual friend and collected his address to pay him a surprise visit, apologise and remind him of his promise to wait for me rather than call on the phone.

I dressed that day, taking care of my makeup and dress with hints of what he had said he liked when we dated, colour, shoes, dress style. It was a peace offering. I had no doubt we would work out our relationship and make up for the lost years.If only I had an inkling of the drama that awaited me when I arrived at his place.The shock I received when I got to his place and found out he was married was enough to send me to an early grave.

The lady introduced herself to me as his wife. I remember the look of satisfaction on her face at my disbelief and disappointment and how she wagged her ring finger in my face, possibly in a bit to taunt me.

She obviously knew who I was and enjoyed the pain I was going through. I did not blame her. My loss was her gain. She had a fantastic guy, and it was okay to show off especially to an ex who discarded him like a dishcloth.
How I made it back home that day driving was a blur, but I did get home safely to deal my misery.

I cried for weeks, heartbroken and there was no one to confide in. I had made my bed and had to lie on it, but it was not what I wanted. If only I could turn the hands of the clock back to the day, I told Bode I needed a break. If only I could explain to him my fears and how I felt. If only I had called him back that same day that I had not meant all I said as my heart yearned to. If only I had not given into the logical side of my brain and analysed my romance like a science experiment.

The if-only were too many, but they were not going to bring me out of the hole I fell in. I never thought I could get out. It was the feeling of being afraid to breathe. Going through all the motions of life but your heart was not in it. I was a living dead. I lost what mattered most because I was too selfish to recognise the best gift that was handed to me in the person of Bode Coker and now I had lost him forever.

In my grief, I convinced myself that I was okay, my career was enough, and there was no room for romance or family. I had a wall around my heart enforced my beliefs which were gradually crumbling down.
Love and family were okay, and I could pray to open my heart at a second chance if I was lucky to get one.

Omowashe Omorishe#12

Blame game – Hormones

 

blame game

I was literally sleeping on my feet as I stole a glance at Peju wondering how she was getting on so perfectly after the horrendous journey we encountered, with little or no sleep over the night and a dash home to bath, change and back at the office short of a minute late. I recall seeing her taking a quick cup of coffee before leaving the house. Maybe that is her secret.

Moving towards the tea room to settle for a cup of pure black coffee, no cream or sugar. I took the bitter liquid in gulps closing my eyes in a bid to get the drink successfully down my throat.

I had almost finished the cup of coffee when I heard someone come in.

“You have the word torture screaming from the look on your face,” said my boss Andrew.

“It either this or I’ll be useless today,” I replied.

“You could have taken the day off and resumed tomorrow,” he said.

“Did not think it was an option, I’ll survive,” I replied turning to wash the used mug and rolled my eyes like he would have approved.

We were all getting used to this his beautiful side gradually but the old him we knew was ingrained in our subconscious. In his draconian days, you dared not dream of taking a day off, it was never approved, sick leaves were documented with a Doctor’s report, and missed days reported to the Human resource with a memo in your file at the Branch.

“Did you enjoy your trip?” he asked. He seemed to want to linger here in the tea room.

“The trip was splendid. I must say and eat humble pie. All the places you mentioned were exquisite. I loved every minute of it except when we landed at the Murtala International Airport, Lagos. There was no light, everywhere was dark and hot except for the illumination coming from the use of rechargeable lanterns.

In this 21st Century. It was crazy, and to make the situation worse, the conveyor belts were not working so the luggage were handled manually. We spent close to 3 hours after landing at the airport.

“Welcome back home,” he said.

I know he was referring to the difference from Dubai to Lagos, but why did I feel it was more like welcome home my dear.

I shook my head I must be going nuts with Peju’s engagement.

He seemed to want to say something more but changed his mind.

“See you around,” he said leaving as I followed him out.

There was a shout of “Happy Birthday!” from the rest of the colleagues out there. I knew it was not my birthday yet, mine was some few days away and not sure whose it was.

Then it dawned on me. It was the boss’s. Andrew looked rather surprised. I guess he did not expect us to know. We had never bothered in the previous years. I wondered who found out and how we did not know on Friday before leaving work.

So the whole office sang the happy birthday song for him. Apparently, the unit in charge of birthdays and other celebrations provided him with a gift which was presented by Peju.

“You have been superb at hiding it all these years and this time around we found you out,” I commented liking the look of utter shock and astonishment on his face.

He thanked us not without noticing Peju’s engagement ring and offering his congratulations as the whole office gave theirs too. The smile on Peju’s face was priceless.

This whole weekend had revealed something I had never noted or refused to note about my friend. She was euphoric with her engagement which made me remember mine to Bode. I had refused to take a ring from him then. My reason was I did not want to brand myself, should the relationship fail. I wanted to be sure I knew what we were doing. I think right from the beginning I had held back from the relationship. I had no hope or belief that we would end up at the altar. It was a trial for me. To test the waters, if it would work but I guess in the end, it was as I had feared. I was not strong enough to want that relationship, it was not significant enough to make it work, the love Bode showered was not robust enough to keep us together because I had no love to give in return.

I did not know what it was to give yourself completely to another. I was too much of myself to let go. I wondered if all my thoughts made sense to me, but seeing Peju, I doubted I could love the way she did. There was nothing wrong with Bode and me. I was not able to love back the way he did and felt guilty. I did go back to him as I promised when I had worked out my feelings but it was already too late.

The wound from my experience could not heal to allow me to venture out and try again. I closed my heart and ran away from every guy that looked like he wanted more than I could give. I had a history.

I must have been deep in my thoughts for I did not hear a word of the speech Andrew gave, and we were all dispersed to our desk. It was not an excuse not to work because it is the boss’s birthday.

Why don’t they declare holidays on such days? I could do with one today.I thought.

I ran through my calendar to check the clients I had to visit and issues to tackle as I planned the week.

How did I miss that? We had a meeting with Chief Emeka Ani in Festac town. A wealthy shipping mogul at 12 pm with my Manager.

I  called him to find out if he had it on his calendar and would be able to make it.

I was glad he did. We should be setting out by 10 am if we were to make it. I called the driver to the pool car as ours had taken his for servicing. The guy chooses odd days to service his car. Who would do such at the beginning of the week when he could have used a weekend? I fumed. The pool driver had been taken out by another team.

“Of course, we would be using the manager’s car,” I chuckled to myself, why was my brain slow this morning.

A headache was setting in. “I could not deal with problems, not today,” I muttered to myself.

My Manager and I were meeting Chief Emeka Ani for the first time. I had been running after an appointment with him for six months. My lucky break came when I met him at another client’s daughter’s wedding. I stuck to him like a leech until he gave me an appointment which was three months away. I called last week to reconfirm the meeting and was too glad when it was confirmed. I half expected the man to cancel it.

I printed the dossier I had on the client so that my Boss could read it on the way.

The report contained personal as well as business information about his net worth and network.

Chief Emeka was the largest individual shipping magnate in the country, and a lot of the importer and few exporters in the country made use of his shipping line. He had friends in high places especially the customs and it was a taboo to prevent his ship from unloading at the port or delayed from leaving.

The Customs Controller General was his friend. Last Christmas chief had doled out the latest Honda cars as gifts to top personnel in the customs.

While I was not playing the role of a police officer, I did not need to be a Sherlock Holms to know that Chief was playing in dirty waters and all these gifts released was to ensure his business ran smoothly. Nevertheless, mine was to get him to use my Bank for all his transactions ensuring that the bank is safe and not roped into any financial crimes saga in the future. Foremost was to get all the proper documentation in place validating the authenticity of his business and should there be any problem in the future, the risk to our bank will be mitigated.

***********

Andrew read the dossier on the way to the 12 pm appointment with Chief Emeka. The dossier had been Lana’s idea on most of the account she signed on to the company.

It was Lana and her friend Peju that prepared reports on clients for him to read before any meeting. The girls must be good in information gathering, or they had someone who did it for them professionally. The reports were so thorough that details and events of both personal and business lives of clients were available chronologically that you could almost make an inference on their next move.

They left nothing to chance, mundane details like preferred colours, drinks, relaxation spots, favourite child, and football club were all in there.

I liked the idea of the report because it gave you an idea of how to approach and present your proposal to the person. You were not coming from a blind perspective but from an informed position with knowledge good enough to get into the head of the client, prompt his questions and answer them proactively. It gave you an upper hand to close the deal.

It was not a wonder how they both amassed a huge clientele base of high net worth individuals. The portfolio between the two friends were some three to four branches put together.

I asked a question while perusing the report and was surprised not to get a response. Glancing up, I noticed Lana was fast asleep with her head at an odd angle.

I tapped her lightly so she could adjust her head but she was far gone into dreamland to have noticed. I don’t know why but looking at her sleeping so peacefully without her guarded demeanour and armour of efficiency, she looked vulnerable. I felt this protective instinct to protect her but from what I asked myself. Keep to your professional role. I chided myself.

I placed the middle seat down and guided her head so she could sleep as comfortably as possible. A nap should help. She must be tired coming straight from Dubai to the office, these ladies think they are superhuman, now nature has come calling, and you can’t argue or fight back but succumb.

I decided to settle in my corner of the car with today’s newspaper reading from page to page starting from the sports section hoping that should kill time.

“Sleeping on duty?” I teased when I heard her stir.

“Did I sleep?” She asked the obvious question alarmed.

“I am sorry sir,” she apologised.

Shaking my head, I said, “No Madam” in response to her using “sir” after one too many reminders it was no longer applicable to our workplace.

“You need not give apologies. I doubt your coffee and all the forces of the world could have prevented you,” I teased again watching her squirm.

Why I loved to tease her at most opportunities were lost on me but with my sister away I guess old habits don’t die you look for the next available target and Lana was one.

I watch her check her time with a gasp as she lounged into her bag like a dog looking for a bone in the sand.

Then she came up with a black bag the size of a sandwich, not until she opened it did I understand what the fuss and hurry were about.A cosmetic bag with items in different shapes and sizes.It was a wonder the things that small bag contained.

She started some repair work on a face that looked okay to me only when she finished. She looked more than looked good.

Lana put on a red lipstick like the one I saw her with at Chief Idowu’s function some few months ago. Now how did I remember that? I hope I am not becoming paranoid.

She smacked her lips together satisfactory.

“He likes red lipstick,” she remarked.

“Who?” I asked alarmed.

“Chief Emeka,” she answered like it was something I should know.

I looked at her clueless,” if he likes red lipstick what has that got to do with you?” I was clearly annoyed I thought my team members were a better breed of ladies. It was common knowledge that most of the women in marketing and sales included their bodies in the package.  I had told my team members. The Bank will not condone such behaviour.

“I can’t afford to look anything that would put him off.That could close our discussion fast,” Lana said without caution.

“It’s human psychology,” she continued like we were having a normal conversation.

I mused at what she said.

“Don’t you think it rather sends another message other than the professional front you want to put up?” I asked through seethed teeth controlling the anger I felt

“No,” she argued.

“You would not want to stay longer with me if I was wearing a colour or perfume that you found disgusting,” she said digging into her bag to spray her perfume not without opening the window.

‘Thanks”, I said appreciating her thoughtfulness although she should not be doing all that in the car.

“This account means a lot to you?” I asked trying to get into her head and see things from her perspective. I did not like the desperation I read in all these moves.

“Like every account sir,” she said noncommittally.

“Do you want me to back off?  I see you have it all sorted out,” I getting irritable and could not understand why.

“Nope, Chief likes dealing with the big shots, he will feel slighted if I did not come with the Branch head,” she explained.

“Then we have to make you one very soon,” I said as a matter of fact.

“Not until another five years going by my projection,” she answered.

I was not surprised she had thought of it. I smiled.

My thoughts started spinning. I should work on moving Peju and Lana to branch heads soon they were doing great jobs and did not need that five years projection. I will do a report on them at the end of the quarter and submit to the Regional Manager. But I was not pleased if they had joined the bandwagon of those selling their bodies to meet their targets.

The meeting with Chief Emeka was productive. The man signed on before we left with a hefty cheque of N20 billion naira.

Where Lana gets her contacts from still baffles me. She had a string of high net worth individuals on her portfolio and managed them well.

I did not miss the way Chief Emeka eyes kept ogling at her and sometimes her legs.

I was sick to my stomach at a time when he licked his lips. These were examples of men that brought shame to us men and made women classify us as dogs on prowl settling for anything in skirts even if they were young enough to be your daughters.

I sat so straight in my disgust that I could feel the pain in my back. I could not wait to finish the meeting and leave.

What further baffled me was how oblivious Lana was to the undercurrent going on in the room. I did wonder what would have happened if Lana came alone. He certainly looked like one that was ready to pounce on his prey. I doubted if he thought she was coming with someone.

I did not like the man. I would not deal with him either at close range or with a long stick.

Lana needed to be careful in her dealings with this man and other men like him.

I drew a long breath the moment we were out of his office. I could not quantify the relief I felt to be out of that office.

 

*******

I was shocked to realise I slept in the car on our way to Chief Emeka’s office.

I could not recall placing the middle seat to rest my head and wondered if Andrew did but I could not conjure the thought in my head that he would go out of his way. He is my boss.

The speed at which I reached for my bag to do damage control to what would have become of my face must have been hilarious because when I stole a glance at his face, he was looking bewildered.

I picked the red lipstick I had used during Chief Idowu’s party and applied to my lips.

I teased my Manager that the client liked it, and we had to do what the client wanted after all they were the ones that said the customer is king.

He looked more infuriated and argued if I was not sending wrong messages to the client.

I don’t know why I did not bother to correct him that I was joking.

I had never pushed my looks before my professional front to any client.

All my clients have been well behaved and respectful men if they misbehaved I had no clue as none never came my way.

I felt Andrew was unnecessarily going overboard for nothing. He was behaving more like a jealous boyfriend than a boss.

As we left Chief Emeka’s office, Andrew waited for me to step out o the office and followed with his hand on the small of my back. I felt like an electric current passed through me but recovered quickly and began stewing in my silent rage. Why did I feel like he was placing a seal of ownership on me?

I was not about to jump into Bed with Chief. He was not and would not be the first client I had, and Andrew did not always go with me to see these Clients.

The moment we got to the car.

I told Andrew exactly how I felt.

He smiled, “I did not now it was evident,” was all he said with no remorse.

“I would have done the same for my sister,” he said.

“You are not meat. You are a human being, and men should look at you beyond your curves and legs,” he said stubbornly.

“That was not professional,” I retorted. I would have been madder if we had lost the N25 billion but I was mad all the same because I felt Andrew was saying to me I could not handle things on my own.

“I do not need anyone to protect me out there. You do not always go out with me for my calls. I do not sell my body. I never have and will not contrary to all the stories you hear out there of how girls in this line of career sleep around for deposits,” I was livid and did not care he was my boss. He had crossed the line.

“All I have made has been professional with no strings attached. I use information and loopholes I recognise in their financial services. And any useful information I glean from my dossiers. If you want people to buy anything from you, have to position what you are selling to meet your needs,” I said coldly.

We got into the car, and you could cut the vibes with a knife.

Why was I angry?

He had only but looked out for me, and I was upset about it.

Would I have been okay with it, if he was not perturbed?

I could not answer all the questions flying around my head.

“I heard Peju’s voice in the background.

You questions and reason everything. You can’t always be in control.

I did not like the fact that he did not trust me.

I closed my eyes and sighed.

I gave a start, and my eyes flew open when I felt pressure on my hands.

Andrew had taken my hands in one of his and was rubbing with the other as you would do trying to calm a petulant child.

“I am not a child,” I said as I snapped my hands away from with his.

“You’re tired. I never meant to treat you like a child,” he said in his baritone voice.

The sound was so soothing that I was afraid I would ending up bowling in front of him and the driver. My head was messed up. My nerves were raw. I would soon find fault with a fly if it came within my reach.

“Your journey and coming straight to work must be taking a toll on you. I’ll have the driver drop you off at home,” he said like he did not hear a single thing I said earlier.

“You can take the rest of the day off. You’ve earned it,” he smiled his boyish smile.

“Thanks, I smiled too wanting to apologise but stubbornly fighting it back but in the end in a small inaudible voice, I said, “sorry.”

“That’s okay,” he said taking my hands again and this time around I did not fight back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Omowashe Omorishe#11

Dreams come true

 

ring5

Dubai has been fun all the way. I have not been able to get over the giddiness of being on the trip. I had a fabulous time of wandering around and googling wide-eyed at its picturesque. The city is beautiful. It has been an experience that would linger in my memory for a long time. My beloved Naija paled in comparison to this town of perfection and possibility.
I marveled at every work of architecture and the display of wealth as I moved around the city. For the first time, my loyalty and preference to my roots wavered, and I could hear the winds luring me to consider a relocation.
It was a feeling of how you suddenly realise that your parent’s garden is not as vast and exquisite as you always believed until you stepped out to see bigger and more lovely gardens out there. Much to my chagrin, came the discovery on my maiden voyage out of the shores of my motherland.
Before now, I had never traveled out of the country. While others traveled out for summer vacation, my sister and I slugged it with our father traipsing the length and breadth of the country. We were privileged to learn and relate to its history and diverse culture. It could also be responsible for my patriotic nature. Sadly that too is now in question with only one visit out.
Now I am filled with regret for not taking the Paris offer. There is a new drive to see the world. I have already added cities to visit on my bucket list of things to do before turning thirty. Places like Madrid and Barcelona in Spain, Venice in Italy, Cairo in Egypt, Puerto Rico, London and New York. I have promised myself the luxury of globetrotting.
On the last night of our trip, I was too tired to venture out. Luckily I had seen all there was to see on my list of places to visit. I decided to rest my feet and read a book before going to bed.
I must have slept off when Peju burst in the room shaking me vigorously to break her good news as she narrated to me the next morning.
I probably must have been offended in between my state of dreamland and light consciousness. I heard her announce her engagement to Mr Phillip Idowu CEO Ideal Oil and Gas, Business mogul and Lagos most eligible bachelor. Flipping her ringed finger before my half closed eyes, I groggily gazed at her babbling incoherently as I tried to make sense of all she was saying.
The next morning was none too hilariously because Peju was sleeping when I spotted the ring on her finger. I shook her mercilessly with an infectious excitement and a scream that came out with a sound similar to the screech from a car on high speed whose break is applied suddenly.
“You sly fox when did you get this? Last night? And you did not wake me up?” she asked in her peculiar way of throwing several questions at you in one breath.
She woke up with a start and looked at me like I had grown horns on my head or something much worse.
“Last night and I woke you up to break the news.” she said indignantly.
“No, you did not,” I challenged her this was is not a piece of news one could ignore or forget overnight.
“I did. You woke up looked at me mouthed may be congratulations or perhaps a get lost,” Peju explained wearily.

“No, you did not,” I insisted.
I would not have bothered to wake you up if it was stale news.” I reasoned with her.
“Yeah,” she answered drily.
Nevertheless, I found it hard to believe that I slept through the breaking news.
“Not only did you sleep through, but you also treated my story like it was no news at all. The only reason I did not pour a bucket of water over to wake you was the thrill I would get this morning when you found out. And I have not been disappointed,” Peju said with a full smile.
I heaved a sigh of relief not without throwing a pillow at her before I picked her hand and gazed at the ring sparkling a thousand glittering lights in all directions.
“You got your dream girl. I am super excited for you. Wasn’t it some few months ago I was talking about marrying you off. How fortunate I am not to have to embark on such an arduous assignment and here you are snagging the most priced bachelor,” I said, and this got her smiling from ear to ear.
I did a double take on my observation which got me thinking, and I was quick to share my thoughts.
“Peju, what are you more excited about, meeting the guy of your dreams or snagging this wealthy boyfriend. You seem to me in love more with his status than his person.”
“My dear some things should be clear to you already as to who I am. I was not looking for money when Phil came along, but I would not deceive myself that it is thrilling to be blessed to meet someone good looking, caring, thoughtful and wealthy. What more can any girl ask for in life?” she asked dreamily.
“Plenty,” I answered stubbornly.
I did agree with her that wealth coming with the package was a plus, but there were many sides to a man than his possession.
“If you and I were to plan this trip, how long do you think we would have saved without feeling pain when we check our bank balances? I doubt we would have been able to be here on our bill and staying at the Pullman Hotel. If it were a loan, we probably would have been paying monthly installment right to our graves. So I am excited about him and my new life of love, laughter and luxury.”
I could not argue with her on this one.
“Kai like those romance books kuwa! She exclaimed injecting words from her acquired native Hausa language.
I stare at her blankly.
“Hello!” waving my right hand in front of her face to bring her out of her supposed trance.
“I am lost here with your gibberish,” I said.
“It is an exclamation which did not change the meaning of what I said just adding weight to the words like when you use the word “honestly”. I have not sold you yet, still looking for the highest bidder,” she teased.
“Whatever? I said shrugging my shoulders with an attitude.
“Back to our gist. I wish you all the happiness possible,” I said lifting an imaginary cup in a toast.
“Thank you,” she said clicking her imaginary cup with mine.
“I’ll make a bargain with you upfront which is I get to go on some trips with you, all – expense paid.
“Now who is the sly fox?” she asked grinning.
“I am negotiating before you enter your kingdom and forget us mere mortals,” I teased.
“I can’t forget you. It can’t and won’t happen. You are a girl’s best friend.”
“Oh please!” I said rolling my eyes.
“I do what I need to do because it is the right thing to do and we both stand in to pitch our help for one another. We have each others back, appreciate respect each other. If anyone has kept our friendship is more you than me so don’t praise me. I said with nose crinkling and too quickly added, “we should be celebrating and not going sentimental.”

We ordered room service for our breakfast, raqaq, one of the most traditional bread known in the UAE, with cheese and Iranian Coffee.  For desert Fruit salad with olives in it and a jug of orange juice.
I spat out the olives in disgust as soon as I tasted it. Thankfully it was just Peju and I. It would have been utter misery to swallow it down my throat. I had seen the small black fruit, the size of a grape during our previous meals and had stirred clear off it until today I decided to be adventurous enough to try it out, and how grave my reward was.
“The olive taste horrible!” I exclaimed wondering what all the noise about olives is.
“It is healthy and good for the body,” Peju commented.
“I can use the oil but to take the fruit is a no-no for me,” I said as a matter of fact.
“Why do most healthy foods have nasty tastes and our favourites have a fantastic taste but are not healthy options?” I wondered aloud.
A question I am not able to adequately answer but what comes to mind is the use of refined sugars in their preparation.
While I ranted, Peju took all the olives without a complaint.
“How can you eat that? It’s got a bitter taste. ”I asked looking at her dubiously wondering what she added to hers. Peju has a sweet tooth she could not have eaten the olives.
“It’s healthy, and that is my singular motivation. You don’t see olives on the streets back home,” Peju answered too sweetly.
“I know that, but I can’t get it down my throat,”I grumbled downing a cup of juice to make the awful taste go away.
I eyed the olives on Peju’s plate like it was some mortal enemy.
And I courageously put one in my mouth.
“Oh now, you’ve been eating this sweet berry in the name of olive.”
For reasons I could not explain Peju had blackberry while I had olive and to watch her go on preaching her sermon on healthy foods feasting on blackberry.
“I should have guessed earlier,” I muttered.

Today being the last day, we spent the better part of the day indoors to conclude on packing our luggage. Phil had a meeting this morning. Although it was Sunday, in Dubai Sunday was what Monday was to us back at home. He would be seeing us later in the day. He was not coming back with us as he still had work to do and won’t be in Nigeria for another three weeks.
The hours spent sitting on the plane was the only aspect of the trip I did not like. Although on our flight in, there were films to watch to keep one busy and I had brought books to read, it was disheartening to have to sit that long in just a small space. Sleep that would have been the best option chose that moment to elude me. I was looking forward to going home but not the long, arduous trip ahead.
At the airport, I had to leave the love birds discreetly alone. I might have accused Peju earlier in the day that she could be more in love with his money that who he was but watching them hugging like never to let go dispelled any doubts I had. I could see genuine love in both eyes. I might not be looking for romance for myself, but that did not mean I could not recognise a real one when I saw it.
There were tears in Peju’s eyes as she joined me where I was. My joke died on my lips when I saw how distraught she was looking. It was neither the appropriate time nor season.   I looked over at Phil he was worse than Peju, the guy looked like he was ready to start howling in the airport as tears shone in his eyes. I took Peju away and hastily waved to him. It won’t be good to see a grown man crying in the airport.
I held my friend in a fierce embrace. I have done well so far and would not give in no matter how beautiful it looked when people fell in love. The heart and the drama were too much and intense for me. And somewhere along the line, the feelings cease and people fall out of love. I doubted if Peju and Phil would fall out of love. It did not look it in the few weeks I have seen them together. I was almost beginning to believe that somewhere and in someplace love could be eternal but not for me.

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.

 

Simply just us

Every woman wants to be beautiful, feel loved and appreciated. The 21st-century woman is both lucky and unfortunate to have existed. She is arrayed with unlimited choices sometimes used to her detriment and if chosen wisely to her advantage She is her own best friend and enemy. She is creative and destructive. She is as many times good and bad simultaneously. She could be anything and is what she has decided to be and show the world.

A woman can be loved desired and  admired or shunned and hated, a society’s outcast. Whichever of this she has finds herself, she is to the outsider, a bold, fearless, feisty and confident but to her inner -self the one no one sees, closed and shut away by dark curtains of past or experiences that plagues, taunts, and waltz with her insecurities. Not until she comes to that  place of acceptance of who she was is and is to become, she would always struggle with the demons on the inside while smiling for the world to celebrate her. A tale of two different women yet the same person. She must come to that place where she understands her Maker loves her completely for who she is, not what she is or what she can offer, then comes contentment and a flourish not just on the outside but on the inside as well.

The 21st-century belle is a beautiful girl or woman. She is confident and at peace with her looks, her achievement and the people around her as she journeys through life, aspiring higher and conquering obstacles,  being the best she can be, and enjoying every moment of her life.

I am excited to start this journey of mine, and welcome you to join me as I share my thoughts and stories that would make you, laugh, cry as you identify with these wonderful characters. I hope that through these stories you will see that we all face challenging situations in our lives and how we deal with these situations and relate to the people in them is the plot that spins a good story.

Our lives may or may not make headlines on the tabloids or become a reality TV show but each life is connected to another life with ripple effects we can’t imagine.  We live, we love and love connects all the dots.We add laughter and luxury in the mix. We dream till it becomes our reality. It is simply just us being who we are  – women.