omowashe omorishe#20





Patience came into the room and beckoned to Deola. There was hush hushes around me that I became suspicious.

“Are you planning a coup d’etat on me,” I teased.
You’ll have to all try harder I joked further.
Soon the girls were staring at me weirdly.

“Spill it out,” I commanded snapping my fingers like a royal does to her subjects.
“You might want to sit down,” Halima advised soberly. I would give a penny to see her this demure, but they all appeared to have a serious issue on their minds.

“I think you should call Bode,” Patience suggested.

“Why should I? he is out there and any minute from now I would be called”, I answered still wondering what joke the girls had up their sleeve.

“Lana, this is serious. We are not kidding,” said Deola with a strain in her voice as she knelt beside me taking my hands in hers.

“Bode and his family have left,” announced Patience.

“How do you mean? What do you mean left?” I asked perplexed.
I wrung my hands from her as I stood up to find my parents.
The girls blocked the door hindering me from going out.
I fumbled with my phone to call Bode as my hands shook with fear and confusion.
His call came through just before she made the call.

“Are you okay?” was the first thing he asked over the phone.
Hearing his voiced washed away part of the apprehension.

“Yes I am but what happened with my family?”

“I don’t know, but your uncle mentioned my aunt could explain.”

“Your aunt?” I asked more confused as to what she had to do with us.

“My mother’s twin sister arrived from the UK today and got dragged to the event. Your uncle might have known her before or someone related to them but whatever it was, did not sound good.
Your Dad was also disturbed when he whispered something to him.
We have tried to ask my aunt questions, but she says in her opinion, that there is no reason for the disruption of the introduction,” he briefed her.

“Damn!” I  heard him swear. It was unlike Bode.
“I am going to see my parents right away.

“Can I pick you in about two hours?” he asked.
I could not but smile, trust Bode to be thinking of me in the worst of situations.
My heart melted. A gesture like this one, and many other were the reasons I loved the guy and death alone could separate us.

There must be some explanation to the fiasco that happened to send Bode and his people without the favourable response they expected.
I marched out like a warrior on a mission to my parents and ran into my mum.
“I was just coming to get you.We need to talk,” my mother said tiredly.

“Yeah, I answered drily. I have no idea what drama happened out there but I want it resolved quickly.
“You know what Bode and I have gone through in the past. We don’t need any family meddling. You said it yourself that he was the best guy for me,” I argued with my mum.
She flinched at my words like I had slapped her in the face. In a way, I was happy because I could tell that come what may she would be by my side.
“My dear, there are some things we never plan for that happens, and we need to be strong when they come. What we see is not always what it seems to be,” advised.

“I patted her arm with the assurance of Queen Amina of Zazzau’s victory at all her battles. There is not “seem to be” with Bode and I. ours is what there is, you get to see, assured her confidently.

“Let’s go and see Dad and sort this my Nollywood scene one out,” I said.

If only I had an inkling of the crack in my perfect life I was to encounter in a few minutes, perhaps I would not have joked so hard or taken it calmly. Bode and I would have gone far away from civilisation to live strengthened by your love for each other.

I arrived the living room with Uncle Segun and My Dad seated. My father had his lips pursed in the usual way when he had something serious he wanted to say.
“I t had better be worth every pinch of salt,” I was furious with him.

“Lana, sit my uncle patted the seat beside him for me to sit which I declined to express how upset I was.

I refused to be patronised by them. How could my family have spoiled such an important day to me without finding an effectively way of resolving the issue amicably? They had to send Bode and his family away disgracefully.

“There is something you need to know. We have kept this truth from you for a long time hoping for the favourable time to tell you,”  said my Uncle Segun. What was curious to me was why he was the spokesman in this matter.

“And today is the favourable day?” I asked with disdain.

“Lana, you would not talk to your Uncle that way. We brought you up better than that,”My mother reprimanded me.
I shrugged too upset to care.
How could they sit there so righteous about what they had done?
“I do not know how to start,” said Uncle Segun.

“Start from anywhere but I need a good reason for what happened and a solution too,” I retorted angrily.

I knew my mum was looking at me, rebuking me with her eyes since her words had failed to caution me but I refused to look at her.
I was ready for a fight with my elders. Although, the saying goes that you do not fight with your seniors and win.
My Dad stood up and left us only to come back with a brown envelope that looked old. It was sealed.

“Open it,” he commanded.

I tore to envelope open, and it was a birth certificate from the United Kingdom
“What is this Dad?” I asked looking at him all the while wondering the correlation between the trouble we had and the certificate he gave me.
“Read it,” he instructed.
I read it.
The birth certificate belonged to Olulana Oluwatooni, same name, same birthday as me but with Uncle Segun and another name as parents.

“What happened to her?” I asked referring to the child.
Uncle Segun had a child born the same day as me with another woman and not Auntie Bimba, there was real trouble for him when she found out, but why give me the birth certificate?

Nothing prepared me for the bombshell my Uncle Segun dropped next.
“You are my daughter!”

“Common Uncle Segun, this is not the time or place for your jokes. We have something serious here. My introduction has been stopped by some story you are yet to tell me.I will come to this later but can we talk what happened here today,” I asked.

How was I to believe this cock and bull story of being Uncle Segun’s daughter? Some jokes died even before being shared, and this was one of them.

“What happened Dad?” I asked taking a look at him, my mother and then Uncle Segun.
“The woman that came with Bode’s family, his mum’s twin is the name of the woman on your certificate. She ‘s your mother and then makes you and Bode first cousins,” my Dad answered in that straightforward and short way parents offered an explanation and expected you to understand even an altering life information as this.

I sat stunned, taking in the information.
What was happening was not real. I must be in a bad dream.
I took a look at my parents, or not parents and uncle but not my uncle.
“It’s not true?” I whispered more a question than a statement, yet everything within me told me it was the truth.

I could not believe it, but it was true.
I looked at the paper again as the tears threatening to fall blurred my vision.
Who was I?
I was not who I thought I was.
How do these things happen? I searched my memory if I had encountered such story before in fiction or a movie but none. There was no story to relate with but my imagination.
I felt hot and cold at the same time as the doctor’s orders flashed my mind not to exert myself overly. Damn! I swore. Did I just swear? What does it matter?

You find out in one day. Your fiancé is your first cousin. Your sister all your twenty-six years of life is not your sister, your parents are not your parents and your Uncle is now your father with a mother you never knew.
Your whole life has been a joke, and nothing had been real.
I felt ripples of several emotions; hurt, betrayal, and anger.

“Why? Why now? Why was I never told this? Why was I lied to all my life?” I shouted hysterically.
My supposed parents and uncle looked with discomfort but said nothing.
They were wise not to as it would only have aggravated an already bad situation and I would have said things not worth repeating.
I was close to hating. I hated them for this.

The room became too stuffy for me. I wanted to get out. I wanted to leave the presence of these strangers I had known all my lives.
With the birth certificate in my hand, I took a last look at them and walked out of the room, out of the house and out of their lives forever.

I was unable to see Lana.  We left Lana”s place, not without my uncle promising that we would look into the matter and be back with our proposal.
He was confident that whatever the issue is will be resolved and was not upset about the refusal of our proposal.

No sooner had we entered the house did my uncle rebuke my mum.

“Did I not tell you not to allow her to go with us,” he referred to my aunt like she had no name.

“Egbon, it would have still happened even if Kehinde was not there.” said my mum.

She was right because they were identical, you could hardly tell the difference between them.
“It would not because you did not know that family and had not seen them until today,” he argued.

My aunt stood there the whole time. Then she quietly asked to be excused that she was tired and needed to rest.
Tired I asked in my head. My whole life was crumbling, and you hold the key, and there you are saying you were tired.

“You can go and rest. I am so sorry for troubling you today,”  my mum apologised.

“ Kehinde,  You can’t go and rest yet. You need to tell us what that man meant. I could see you knew each other. Since you refused to talk there to allay their fears about our family, the little you can do now is tell us.
I punched my uncle in the back in comradeship. Mind you this was all in my head. How dare you do that to an elder in Africa, your mother’s elder brother? It was not only disrespectful. You could incur a curse on your life. The man hit the nail on the head. He was as eager to get over with the situation as I was.

“Egbon, this could wait till later, let her rest. I should not have insisted she came knowing she had just arrived from a long journey,” my mum pleaded with Baba Bisola.

“No, it cannot wait, you do not go to bed when you have an issue to resolve because sleep will be futile. I am also surprised at how calm you are about the issue. You would have told me earlier that you were not keen on your soon getting married,” queried Baba Bisola.

“Oti o! , meaning No in Yoruba. What kind of mother would I be?” I am only practical, night has come, and whatever we find out, we still need to discuss with the family and fix another introduction date. You have no idea how grateful I  am not to have made the event an elaborate one. The shame would have killed me,”

“Now you are talking,” he nodded in agreement.

“That is why I want it resolved. Whatever story Kehinde has might give us a clue.” he reasoned.

“Kehinde, you don’t have to provide us with a long story just a summary what we need to know to solve the problem before us,” my mum said.

I sat there and watched as the words flew over my head. I had tried Lana, severally but her phone was switched off.

My ears piqued when I heard my aunt say,” I will tell the story, but it has no link to stop Bode and their daughter.”

“Let me be the judge of that,” said Baba Bisola impatiently.

I met Segun in the United Kingdom while in medical school, he was a law student. We fell in love. He was a perfect gentleman all the way. Pushing me to study hard and maintain my excellent grades. I was the best student in my class. My life could not have been more perfect, great school, wonderful friends, good grades and the perfect boyfriend. Segun back in the day was a good looking guy.  So handsome that he had ladies eating out of his hands, but he treated them all with respect.

I was aloof at first where he was concerned. I was not fooled by his charms or so I thought. But love has no design or pattern. It happens beyond our well calculated strong will. The heart will respond and sometimes the battle of our will could be lost before we even realised what hit us.

I was introduced to Segun by a mutual friend at her birthday party. He was funny, witty and humble. He had none of the airs I had perceived from afar. I watched how he related to the others, and you could see he genuinely cared about people. We struck a friendship and became the best of friends. He had many female friends, but that did not bother me until one day, he came excitedly to my room asking for advice, he had found a girl he wanted to date. He wanted my help.

I was stunned, but I could not explain the pain I felt in my heart. For a brief second, I felt that girl should have been me. But I pushed that thought away and asked him about the girl. I would perform my duty as a friend who wanted the best for him.
The mystery girl was one lucky girl, as we planned together. Segun would ask questions, and I would answer him using the thought process of an average girl.
The big day came. He asked if I wanted to go with him. Of course, I shooed him off.

“My work ends here buddy. The rest is yours. Let me know how it goes when you have time off,” I said.

“Is someone jealous here?” he teased.

“Not in your life,” I lied as I pushed him out of the door playfully but quickly, my heart was breaking into pieces.

I fell on my bed and cried my heart out. I had lost my friend forever.
Two hours later, my room bell rang. I was not expecting any one. Segun must be busy executing our plans on his new girlfriend.
I ignored the call. I must be looking a mess, but the persistent ringing got me out of bed, it could be one my girlfriends. I was not ready for company, but it wouldn’t hurt to have someone take my mind off the pain that threatened to consume me. I had heard of heart breaks but now understood the pain. It was worse than a physical wound which could be treated and heal in no time. The ache was intense, and I had no clue how I would survive it.
I opened the door and was aghast so see Segun.

“What are you doing here? Are you not meant to be at her place?” I asked surprised he was at my door.
He ignored my question and asked me what happened that I had been crying.
My red swollen eyes must have given me away.

“Nothing, I can’t handle,” I answered with an excitement that was far from what I was feeling inside my heart.
There was no point lying.

“Enough about me.What happened to your date?” I asked trying to change the subject.

“I want to know why you were crying. I left you two hours ago, and you were perfectly okay,”  pestered Segun. He apparently did not believe me.
No way was I going to bear my heart before him.
It was my secret. Time will heal me.

“Come,” he commanded me, and my wayward heart betrayed me as my legs walked towards him.

“Doctor, you can’t diagnose your ailment,” he shook his head with disappointments.

“There is no medicine or antidote for some illness,” I replied.
He was too close for comfort.
Let me try was what I heard as his lips came softly on mine.
The kiss was sweet. I angled myself towards Segun wanting to get more of him as my hungry heart yearned. I would keep this memory tucked away as a souvenir of what we never had and be contented to have shared this moment with him.

Baba Bisola cleared his throat. I am not here to listen to romantic stories. “Tell me what I need to know regarding the situation at hand.”

“I am getting there,” my aunt said unruffled.

And she continued.

I quickly pulled myself away.
What was I doing? I asked myself
“We should not be doing this,” I whispered even when my heart was screaming otherwise.
He used his finger to lift my chin and looked into my eyes. Segun was much taller than my 5 feet 2 inches.
“What do you see?” he asked hoarsely his voice filled with emotions I could not decipher.
“Your eyes,” I replied lamely and looked away.
He looked so disappointed that my heart was beating with hope. Why was he playing tricks on me when he should be doing this to his mystery girlfriend? My head reasoned.

“I love you, Agnes. I loved you the first day I saw you in the school’s cafeteria and our chance meeting at Gigi’s birthday was a dream come true. I always have and will always love you.
I was crying more and harder now. Dreams do come true. Don’t they?

“What happened to your mystery girlfriend?” I asked curious to know.

“It was you all the while,” he replied.

I smiled deliriously with happiness.
Segun was mine, and I was his.

We dated for two years. Segun finished his law course and needed to come to Nigeria for the law school and national youth service and after that, return to the UK. He lived with his elder brother then. The parents of the girl we went to see. I still had three years of med school.
The night before he left, with so many emotions of our impending situation, one thing led to another as we gave into our passion resulting in the birth of a child nine months later.

We exchanged letters all through that period. I never told Segun I was pregnant. I was ashamed, I could not call home, I could not tell you, she said looking at my mother, afraid he might break up with me. I was scared I would be thrown out of med school.

I hid the pregnancy, luckily I succeeded.  Two weeks to my expected date of delivery, I went to Segun’s brother and explained that I did not want to ruin his life and snag him into marrying me, but I could not keep the child, and I wanted to put the baby up for adoption. All this while I still did not inform Segun I was pregnant.
His brother was calm when I told him. He asked me to give him a week. He needed to discuss with his wife.
They called me earlier precisely three days later. They will take the child from me. They already had a daughter. They were not adopting but will care for the child till when Segun came back, and we were able to make our decision.

I had the baby and gave her to them immediately. I applied for a  transfer to another med school to finish my studies and moved on. I did not keep contacts with my friends and just disappeared. I wrote to Segun that I had found someone else, and we could no longer date.
It was the hardest thing I had to do, but I wanted this part of my life over. I wished I had done things differently, but it was still not a guarantee that Segun and I would have been together.

I never got any letter from him as I left no forwarding address and mentioned I had left. I requested the records department not give my new information to anyone.
Looking back, I made a wrong decision and had my regrets.However,
I am here now to look for my daughter and ask for her forgiveness.

I listened to my aunt’s story with rapt attention. Lana and I almost made that same mistake with Lana feeling she needed to focus on her career, making her decision on our lives without consulting me. But we were past that now.

My mum let out a sigh as she wiped her tears.
“Such a sad story and you went through this alone. Why did you not share this with me?” my mum asked her sister.
“You had your hands full, marriage, a toddler. Your life had no space to accommodate all the drama mine had. I was not proud of myself either. Going to med school and getting pregnant,” replied my aunt.

Baba Bisola to my surprise failed to give his opinion on the matter.
“Mama Bode, let me know when you have sorted it out with the family and when next we have to come.I have had enough happening for a day. A prodigal sister comes back to look for a child she abandoned whose father happens to be the Uncle of Bode’s fiancée. What is this world turning into these days,” he muttered.

“I am sorry, I never tried to communicate in time past. I was ashamed that I had failed the family. Our society frowns at having a child out of wedlock and is very unforgiving. Had I kept the baby and came back my life would be unbearable first from my family and community. I know I have no excuse. Egbon, I am sorry,” pleaded my aunt as she went on her knees in the traditional way joined by my mother.

“ It’s okay, like your sister said, we do not throw the baby and the water away. I wish you the best now that you are back. I hope you get your daughter back although it is almost too late now.

Omowashe Omorishe#14

Love stole on me


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#13

Slowly but surely


“Peju you’ve got to choose a gown,” I scolded her.
“We have been to all but one wedding dress shop on both the island and mainland, and you are yet to get a gown of your choice. I suggest you give Vera Wang a call. I am sure you would get something from her, or maybe we should look for Frank Osodi. He is as good as Vera Wang,” I said frustrated that we have been unable to get a design she liked.

We had spent the last two months in and out of all the wedding dress shops that we could find and much to my chagrin she had not been able to spot a style she loved. There was always a- but in the dresses she saw.

She wanted a wedding dress that could show her figure to the nines but appropriate and easy on the eyes. We saw quite a lot of body fitting tube gowns which looked great on her, but she complained she felt exposed in them. If my opinion counted at this point, I wondered how exposed you could get with a wedding gown snug on you, showing all your curves with full sleeves. You are in a long dress for crying out loud not some short skimpy dress.

There are two sides to any wedding gown – just my thoughts. It is either you went with something conservative where all the mothers and church officials are happy or provocative where the men will ogle at the bride. The mothers will eye in disgust, and the younger ladies will look with envy waiting for their time to come and how they would improve or use the same style.

We were yet to find this middle ground Peju was looking for, and here I was facing the herculean task of tagging along on every visit.

Peju suddenly had this look on her face like someone who had caught a divine inspiration. Why did I feel that whatever was coming would not be good?
She pulled out her Louis Vuitton bag and groped in it for about a minute before turning out with a one Dirham coin I supposed she got on our trip to Dubai.

“Heads, Vera Wang and tail, Frank Osodi,” she said tossing the coin into the air, and it landed on tail.

“You decide who would make your dress by flipping a coin?” I asked incredulously.

“Yes, so that settles it, I would describe what I want and hope he creates the magically look I desire,” said on a final note.

“Dress sorted we can move to other things.” she concluded.

The attendants at the shop were watching us like a television sitcom.

Frank Osodi had created an exceptional wedding gown for a bride in one of the issues of Ovation Magazine I got to read at the salon while waiting to make my hair a while ago. The writer said, “He was as good as any international designer.

Sheila my cousin, the nail expert had also worked on that Bride. I put a call through to her for contact details.

“I hope yours comes out exceptional, or I would blame myself,” I grumbled.

Sheila offered to call and book an appointment on our behalf. She told us he ran a busy schedule in and out of the country and would be lucky if he could take up our job.

“For a Nigerian designer?” I asked with disdain.

“Yes for a Nigerian designer,” she mimicked me.

“One whose design will make you will eat humble pie,” Sheila vowed.

“I hope so,” I said with no enthusiasm, still sceptical.

Turning to Peju, “I have gotten his number, but you heard Sheila, she would call on our behalf. Hopefully, that should help.”

“Back to your coin tossing, would you have gone with Vera Wang? I asked with doubt.

“I would have gladly gone with you on that trip,” I said dreamily with the advent of my new hobby in globetrotting, I could not pass up every opportunity to travel.
Peju was back into her bag pulling out God knows what this time around.
I screamed when she sheepishly handed a ticket to London with my name on it as I looked at her for an explanation.

“Phil got tired of listening to my tales of woe on how I had been unable to secure a gown,” Peju said like going to London was an everyday affair for both of us.

“How good could this get. Dubai then London,” I squealed.

“Girl, I might not envy your walk down the aisle to matrimony, but I do envy this trips,” I said pleased with my good luck.

“It was not my idea, trust me.  Phil mentioned it last week, but I brushed it aside. Why do I need to go on an expensive trip to purchase a wedding dress I could as well get here, with proper fittings and adjustment should my weight change just before the wedding,” she said shrugging her shoulders in her peculiar way.

“Another all-expense paid trip. My life is becoming a fairy tale,” I gushed twirling around.

“Did you know London is on my list of places to visit before I turned 30?” I asked giddily with excitement.

“Where is your honeymoon destination? I asked manifesting my Oliver Twist tendencies.

“Why does the work of a maid of honour end at the wedding party?” I moaned as I envisioned her honeymoon destination.

“Oh no yours could continue till the honeymoon,” she said sarcastically pulling my hands as she led me out of the shop.

“You have just confirmed to me the reason I need to get you married within six months of mine,” she said with a look on her face that spoke an indomitable but achievable feat.

“How do you intend to go about that Mrs Peju Philip Idowu? By wagging some more tickets before me? I teased calling her by her future name. Phil was short for Philip so in away Peju gets to retain her name without the “s.”

“By being resourceful and perceptive,” she said picking her words like she was talking to a toddler.

“You don’t recognise love or romance when it stares you in the face, and that would be my starting point,” she looked me straight in the eye willing me to see her point of view.

“You are wrong Peju,” I said smiling confidently. I may not possess Peju’s specialisation in matters of the heart, but I was not so daft not that I would not see one if it stared me in the eye.
“Am I?” she asked daringly like one preview to a piece of information I did not have.

“Yes,” I said challenging her.

“Then it is no news to you that Andrew has eyes for you only,” she whispered with a hint of provocation in her eyes.

“Oh my dear friend now I am certain you are running a little crazy and losing some part of your senses with all this wedding preparation stress,” I said with a grin and taunting her.

“Andrew is our boss and nothing more. Please don’t mess with my mind, try something else,” I chastised her.

Peju laughed. “I told you. You won’t recognise love staring you in the face,” she said gleefully.

“Should we take a bet?” she asked.
“No way, you flipped a coin and your wedding gown and now want to bet on my love life? I am not travelling that road with you.
“A trip to a place you desire all-expense paid? She said throwing a bait at me.
I shrugged I had nothing to lose but my trip.
“I am in, I agreed.
She pulled out her hand for a handshake, and we did like two business partners only we were two young women betting real life issues like juveniles.

Have you given a thought to the dinner, every opportunity to chit chat and the look on his face when he sees you? If that is not some romance brewing, then tell me what it is. I won’t mess with your mind,” she said raising her hand in mock surrender having fun at my expense.

“Deny it all you want like but this is my new project that you recognise the need for romance in your life.

“You don’t toy with people’s life. We must play fair in this bet of yours,” I warned.

“Do you know what you have done? Every time I see Andrew, I would be checking out if what you said is true? I accused her.

“Lana, you won’t, you would start avoiding him from today onwards. I am only asking to give it a chance. Let go of Bode and move on,” she pleaded.

“Peju,” I called her name shaking my head from side to side. Our bet was already forgotten.

“Do you think all these romance stories happen all through marriage? I am not talking about the initial meeting and all the chemistry going on during the dating stage but after marriage does the love continue? The happily ever after story?” I asked.

“My parents’ marriage was a farce. They lived like strangers in the same house. I could not recall a time I saw them laugh together. They had different schedules in and out of the house that was a deliberate ploy not to be at the same place in the house at the same time. In front of the kids, they were civil and polite.

“Please pass the salt, I am sorry, please excuse me were what we heard in most of their conversations.

To their credit, they doted on us kids. We were their world, but it was like they made up in their relationship with us what they lost in theirs.
The politeness was so sickening like you can almost hear them use it before an argument.

“Please, I’m going to be mad at you and use unkind words.

“Excuse me you would not dare.”

“I am sorry, but I have to,” I repeated the words I had heard from my parents bitterly.

“Every word and action were controlled and regulated. I did not lack parental love, but I did not have an example of what an ideal home should be. The Television and books are not real they are a figment of someone’s fantasy and imagination of a perfect world, but life is not always perfect.

I was drawn to my Uncle Sege and his wife not only because I was his favourite niece and he doted on me, but I loved the way they both related to each other. Where they able to keep romance in their marriage because of the absence of children? Perhaps but I may be wrong.”

“Did you ask your mother why this was so?” Peju asked quietly.

“No,” I never did.

“Although when I was younger, I would ask her if she loved Daddy, and she would answer yes, and when I ask my Dad, he would say yes. They thought they fooled us, and we were not able to see through their act. I concluded love and romance must be a pain,” sharing with Peju was like relieving the pain and confusion of my childhood, but I continued nevertheless.

“You can imagine when Bode started talking about marriage. I panicked and pushed him away. I needed that space as I was getting suffocated with his affection. Love and devotion that I felt will turn to tolerance and politeness after marriage.
My mum said that he was a good man but was she a good judge of character? My Dad must have been a nice person but see the kind of marriage they had.
My parents behaved like the idle couple outside. They were not on a public display of affection but went to functions together dressed alike. They put a front so successfully that I can recollect someone commenting on how lucky my mother was to be married to a faithful and attentive man. Love and romance do not exist after marriage,” I concluded my story, opening up for the first time to someone.

“Thanks for sharing Lana. I did not know, but you need to disabuse your mind and open up. There are love and romance before and after marriage, and it depends on how ready the couple is willing to work on it. No two marriages are the same, and it is not always a bed of roses, but if you work hard at it, one can make theirs a heaven on earth.
Phil, and I have vowed to work through ours together tackling all issues as a team and not a person,” she said with a voice filled with love enough for the whole world.

“Your parents were once in love but something happened along the way that drew them apart, and they could not find a way back together again.
They may not have given a good example for marriage, but they stayed together for your sake.”

“Peju was right I never saw it that way. It would have been awful if they had separated and my sister and I had to be shuffling houses or choose which parent we wanted,” I thought to myself.

“Don’t be afraid to find love. Open up to it. Your mother’s experience does not have to be your experience,” Peju encouraged.

“You are older now, why not talk to them, and you might have new information that would help remove your fears. Who knows them opening up to you might be the beginning of a healing process for both of you,” Peju said.

“You sure have not done counselling in your last life?” I teased lightening the mood.

“Our experiences and environment shape us, but we have the power in us to use this to our advantage and achieve our potential,” Peju continued.

“You’ll take your pain and turn to gain. You might have given up in the past, but you will rise from it. Peju said confidently tapping my shoulder and taking one of my hands in a reassuring squeeze.

I gazed at my watch. “Peju we have been here for over two hours! I exclaimed.
We got into the car, and she drove off but not without her reminding me of our bet.
My mind had a lot and foremost was to have a talk with my parents.


Omo washe Omo rishe#8

Work hard party hard

Wine cups

Parties could be fun for some people but for others like Andrew Akande, who considered it a chore. It could be boring and a waste of time when compared to the many other activities he could have invested in productively. He was on his way to a party for the wife of Chief Idowu, one of the department’s top client.

Although he had another family engagement scheduled for the same time, a short appearance was better than non-attendance which could be termed rude. However, it was one account they could not afford to lose, and if being at the party was what was needed, he doubted it would not cost him much to attend.

Ever since the account and other series of linked accounts came into his books, his portfolio had moved from average to a high performing. The monthly meetings that were once the worst time of the month became something to look forward to with excitement.His career looked great and the few times he had doubts about taking the role and not going to work at his father’s company were over.He was in the right place at the right time. It was a great feeling when all your team were pulling their weight and not just you alone.

A while ago, he had made every staff go through the report profitability preparation. But for reasons he could not explain, he found himself calling on Lana frequently. The girl was good at her job, too good that he knew someone else in his shoes would feel threatened. But he was on a mission to groom his team to be managers who could make and take decisions responsibly.

Taking Lana to the management profitably meeting and her excellent presentation was an indication that his hard work was not in vain.  Currently moving on to another staff he saw management potential, starting the grooming process was something they never liked but knowing somewhere down their career line they would thank him for the opportunity and training he’d given them.

He got into his Prado Jeep dressed in a black suit with a tuxedo. The white ruffled shirt was the closest he could get to the 1950’s vintage look thanks to his friend he runs a male wear boutique “Suit Place.” He would never have been able to pull the look.

Driving into the Saturday night traffic, he headed towards Lekki, an upscale neighbourhood on the island where the event was taking place. He slotted in Philip Craige and Dean’s worship collection enjoying the uplifting music as his thoughts wandered.

It’s been weeks after the profitability management weekend retreat.He chuckled when he remembered the look on her face at being found out the name she used behind his back. At the retreat, he had tried to call her phone but discovered she left it behind on their table. And there was the phone ringing with flashlights as she had placed it on silent mode in front of him with the name “Buffalo,” like one in a trance, he picked the phone and redialed the number again to be sure nut there was the name. Alas! It was not a mistake.

The whole incident was both incredibly amusing and humbling. Why that animal? What did he have in common with a buffalo?  How did she come to that conclusion? He did not fool himself to believe he was the friendliest boss. But being a young one and did not want to be taken for granted, he built an exterior that required them to jump at every command, and give in to his orders and requests without any form of resistance or argument. He created an atmosphere of fear that demanded obedience. He knew it was not the best, but it was achieving the desired results. Other than their names he had no clue to who his colleagues were.

Seeing the name that day, gave him a lot to think about over the weekend. In addition to what he already knew about how dangerous a buffalo is, he found out on Wikipedia; the adult buffalo’s horns are its characteristic feature, and they have fused bases, forming a continuous bone shield referred to as “boss.”

The whole incident made him reconsider his managerial style and worked on a better way of relating to his team members without losing his self-respect.On the contrary, the change brought better output on staff performance and a deep respect that was genuine and not out of fear. There were more smiles and happy faces. He knew about them beyond the job, and the information helped in relating to them and their work.

Also, he now had a smile on his face coming to work knowing that he had a great team working for him and the department interest. Whenever he called for staff, he found three or more others offering to help out, none shrinking from taking challenging tasks or giving excuses.He could not have been more thankful to Lana for opening his eyes to a self-evaluation. He wondered what she had saved on her phone now hoping it wouldn’t be Buffalo.

Walking into the venue, Andrew scanned looking for an empty table, but He saw someone waving him to come over. He wasn’t sure who she was although there was a slight resemblance to Peju. He walked to the table and once he heard the voice he knew it was Peju Phillips and the other lady was Lana.

Andrew smiled as he said hello still confused why they were looking different but horribly lovely at that too. He tore his gaze from Peju to Lana and in an instant lost his breath. It was like a mighty had knocked him over. It was like he was seeing her for the first time. He knew Lana was pretty all the ladies at work outdid themselves which was normal but today, he could not recall seeing anyone this beautiful. She was a goddess. Everything about her was perfect.

“What drink would you like a drink?” he was brought out of his reverie when a waiter asked him.“Champagne will do. Thank you”. He picked the glass offered to him.Lana smiled at him and continued reading a message on her cell phone. An odd frown settled on her lovely face. He wondered what was so upsetting and if there was anything he could do to help out. Where that come from he asked himself. He must have gotten it bad. This looks must be doing crazy things to his brains.

“You look good ladies.” He complimented their looks.They both said Thank you. Peju conversed with him while Lana was still busy with her cell phone.

“I might need to take that from you.” He heard Peju say to her.

“It’s my uncle. He’s here and wants me to come over to their table because he wants to introduce me to some friends of his,” Lana replied not too happy.

“Go and see him rather than scowling into that phone,” Peju commanded.

“The friends of his he is referring to are prospective suitors. It is annoying how he seems to keep looking for one for me,” she hissed the words at Peju.

Andrew found her funny and chuckled which turned to a cough when she glared at him. He then offered to help.

“I could help you. He might lay low tonight when she sees you came with someone,” he meekly offered. How do ladies do that making a fully able bodied 6 foot three inches guy with six packs, cower in fear with just a glare?

Her eyes lit up. “You’ll do that?”

I nodded in affirmative.

“Let’s go. You have no idea how relieved I am,” she stated as she held my hands and dragged me along like an excited five-year-old.

We stood up and left to meet her uncle. And true to her words she had not exaggerated. There were two young men in their mid-thirties with him.

“Lana dear, you have to meet Deji Adesanmi and Peter Okon, they are partners at Dataflex, an IT company. Incredible young men, who are great at what they do, the only snag I say to them is that they are yet to have accounts with Maple Bank. Any business that matters in this city must bank with Maple Bank,” He laughed at his joke while Lana was forced to say some niceties to the young men and exchanged complimentary cards. I noticed how she cringed at her uncle’s introduction but quick not to miss the cue to take on a lead, a real sales person.

Her uncle had relaxed a bit when I mentioned being her boss at work, but that did not deter him from asking about my marital status and if I was interested in his niece. I almost sputtered out my drink, too shocked at his brashness to give a corrigible response.

“Take it easy on her. She is dealing with issues she is not even aware plagues her. I should not be discussing this with you but I like you, and my guts say you can be trusted,” he continued oblivious to my discomfort.

“Your niece is great at what she does. Her work is excellent. You need not worry she is capable of caring for herself,” I managed to blurt how considering my brain had decided to take a recess and leave me groping for words while I looked for an escape route.

“I hear that a lot,” he said drily.

“I brought her here to meet these young men as she hardly has time for her social life with the job” but see, he gestured towards her.

“All she does is networking and generating leads. She thinks only about her work. I should be worried because work does not put a family around you, work does not give you children work will not be around you when you are sick and lonely. Work is an aspect of your life, not all of it. Work does not remember you when you die, the family does.  The passion she pursues the job at the price of her personal life is what gives me concern,” he finished, and I could feel the ache in his heart.

I had no words to either comfort or encourage him so I took a sip of my drink to fill in for the silence.

The moment I saw a familiar face, I used that as an excuse to escape back to my table leaving Lana with the guys. She did not appear to need help rather she looked more than capable exactly what I had told her uncle.

Back at my table, my eyes wandered to Lana and saw her talking to her uncle. Whatever it was I could see that she was furious.

I did not wish my enemy to be in the man’s shoes.

My opinion was he should leave his niece to navigate the waters of her life and relationships and not meddle in her affairs. She was not a child. She was an adult.

I went over our discussion. “He could trust me” that was some heavy burden placed on me. I was not sure I could trust myself

Lana came back and apologised profusely to me. You could tell she was embarrassed.

“Do you see what I meant with those his friends?”

“What did he say to you?” she asked changing the topic.

“Nothing just work,” I lied casually and cringed inside of me.

“He did not go on and on of how they needed to get me married like marriage was the freedom to live?”

“You wanted him to?” I threw back at her not wanting to keep lying.

“He must be growing old,” she grinned.

“Tell me does your uncle have children of his own and is he married?” I could not hold my curiosity.

“Now you sound like him,” she stated at a matter of fact.”Yes, he is married to a gorgeous lady, my cousins and I love dearly. She is our only aunt who looks like what we want to be. Classy, elegant, career driven, romantic and modern,” she counted on her fingers.

“Yes, he is married to a gorgeous lady, my cousins and I love dearly. She is our only aunt who looks like what we want to be. Classy, elegant, career driven, romantic and modern,” she counted on her fingers.

“Some qualities that is,” I commented amusedly.

How many children do they have together?

“None. They have done everything including In vitro fertilisation (IVF),  but none has been successful. The good thing is they are happy and more in love than the others who have kids,” Lana spoke with an expression mirroring the pain and love.

“What about adoption?” I ventured to ask. In Africa, it used to be a taboo. Adoption is still a very tricky issue and not widely accepted as in the western world. An average African woman wants to bear her children and sees adoption as a stamp of failure rather than an opportunity to be the mother she longs to be.

“I don’t know what their decision is on that, but most of what I know are filters from conversations at family events.”

“It must be hard for them,” I said remembering the ache in his heart when he spoke about family.

“I imagine, but I am the unfortunate niece, the daughter he never had not that I am complaining, but he clucks around me like a mother hen. He has been at every event of my life, birthdays, visiting days at boarding school seizing every opportunity check me at the University. Graduation. His next goal is to get me married. It becomes a torture. I cannot introduce anyone to him without him thinking I am ready to make him a grand uncle. He is so much worse than my Dad,” Lana moaned at what others would give an arm to have a doting uncle.

“It is evident he loves you,”

“That is the only reason I take it easy on him,” she answered

“You mean what I saw was easy?” I feigned horror.

She laughed and shrugged. “Whatever.”

We settled to the served meal of Jollof rice with coleslaw, beans pudding popularly called Moin Moin and peppered chicken. There was also goat meat pepper soup.

“Drew I am very sorry I never got to apologise to you about the name issue.”

“Are we not done with that, I asked? It seemed some form of punishment would be needed to absolve her of this sin.

“I feel terrible about it. That was low of me,” she argued.

“It’s okay. I forgive you, but if you want your guilt assuaged why not have dinner with me on Friday after work?” What was that? I had never given it a thought, but it was out, and a favourable reply mattered to me.

“That’s an easy way to let me off the hook,” she teased.

“Should I be thinking of a more grievous penalty?”

“No – I am game with this one,” she retorted playfully.

“Any favourites?” I asked.

“No, any place you choose is okay,” she answered with indifference. What was I expecting that she would jump over the moon? Well, others might make a big deal to be on chum with the boss, but I could see with Lana that was not the case.

After the meal, Lana caught sight of someone, waiving she rose up to leave.

“There is Phil Idowu, the MD for Oil and Gas Limited, Let me go and say hello.”

“I’ll go with you,” I offered.

As we moved towards Phil, we met Peju on the way, and Lana pulled her telling her we were going to meet the MD Ideal Oil and Gas.

“You have not met him?” I asked surprised.

“No, never met him before,” she replied.

“Don’t you guys manage his accounts?” I asked perplexed.

“They are not the same. I handle Chief like you know and Lana, Ideal Oil and Gas. They are both independent of each other,” Peju explained.

Lana introduced both Peju and me to Phil.

Once he laid eyes on Peju, it was evident the guy was smitten. Phil’s attention was on her.

The girls and I stayed to chat a bit and could not ignore the way his eyes kept going back to Peju.

“We’ll leave you to your guest,” I said excusing my team and me.

“I’ll see you before you leave, he responded more to Peju than the rest of us.

Walking ahead of the girls, I could hear Lana asking her friend what happened there.

“I literally could feel the sparks between you both,” she commented although a whisper but was not lost to my ears.

We got back to our tables, and the girls continued as if I wasn’t there.

“Spill what happened there?” Lana commanded using her chin to point to the direction we just left.

“You two met before,” She went on interrogating her friend.

I watched on fascinated at the way they interacted. I did not know too much about women. It was just my younger sister and me who was a tomboy. Growing up she wanted to do anything and everything I did and better; from climbing trees, playing football to cycling. The moment you said activity was girly she backed up she wanted to do only the boys stuff and brag to me about it later. It continued into our teenage-hood. As we approached adulthood, she gradually dropped a lot but still punches me on the arm as a greeting, challenges me to a game of chess and tries to keep up with any new sport or activity I had picked.

It flashed through my mind that these women would be good for her. She needed female friendships and not the guys that surrounded her. Many times we were so comfortable with her that we forgot she was a female.

“No never met him before,” Peju replied.

“Gosh!  Why am I not the one handling Ideal Oil and Gas? How come you never talked about him?” she asked Lana accusingly.

I don’t know why but I was very interested in her response.

“He is just a client. You seemed smitten by him. I never saw him in that light,” she answered nonchalantly.

I did not know I was holding my breath and was relieved by her response, ironically but same relief mirrored in Peju’s eyes. I was not the only one.

“He is handsome,” Peju commented dreamily.

“His accounts are attractive,” Lana said drily.

“Oh Please Lana don’t be a killjoy, this could be who I have been waiting for all my life.”

“I should be calling the wedding planner by tomorrow. It is too late to do so now,” she gave a lopsided grin.

“Be serious”, Peju begged.

“I am serious. You just met the guy 5 minutes!”

Lana had not finished when Phil came over to our table and requested if he could take Peju away.

“I have lost my friend,” Lana wailed as Peju walked away blinking at her friend like some secret code.

“That is a fast conclusion,” I observed. That was what I had been doing since we came back to our table.

Lana glanced at me with shock. “Oh my God! You were here the whole time,” she exclaimed closing her face with her two hands.

Should I have been somewhere else, the thought flashed

“He seems okay. I don’t think you need to worry,” I encouraged patting her hands now placed on the table.

Glancing at my watch, “I have to go!” I exclaimed.

“I am completely late for a family engagement. Probably won’t make it but I have to try.” I explained.

“Would you be okay by yourself or would you go with me and I drop you afterwards?” I inquired as I stood up to leave.

“Oh no but thanks. I will be okay,” she waved her hands.

“You sure?” I double checked with her.


As I walked away, I remembered to comment on her looks. She looked beautiful today.

I could see the raised eyebrows of surprise.

“Thank you sir” she stammered I mean Andrew.

“Andrew?” I inquired with raised eyebrows.

“No one called me that except my mother. While I had insisted on being called Drew, My parents stuck to the original version.”

“That’s your full name isn’t it?” She asked with a twinkle in her eyes as her left dimple was more prominent with the smile.

“I prefer calling people by their full name some abridged versions or nicknames has a way of hiding the true meaning of the name. There is so much in a name.

“Andrew is a lot better than Buffalo,” I teased.

She grimaced. “I thought you have forgiven me.”

“I have but not forgotten,” I winked.

I would tell you over dinner on Friday if you have not found out by then but now I have to run.”

“Or else Mother will be upset,” she concluded. “And thanks for making light my erred ways.

I groaned. “I have to make you promise never to bring it up again.”

“See you at work,” I said making my final exit.

It took my willpower to leave her alone that night.









Omo washe omo rishe #7

Letting my hair down…….

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 a 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 is 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 the staff, he had three or four ladies volunteering. I felt so sorry for him because you could see the bewildered look on his face to note that he was clueless. It was like watching one of those comedy sitcoms. But I would not trade this new guy for the old one.

Peju and I have been on different projects. We worked in the same office but did not have five minutes to say hello. We caught up sometimes during lunch hour and weekends when we were not working.

Incredible but true we were working weekends. We had no life but refused to complain, after all, that was what we signed for on our contract of employment letter. It was stated,” to work some weekends if need be,” only we were working all weekends for the past six weeks.

Our accounts with Chief Idowu and Ideal Oil and Gas Limited had grown by leaps and bounds. We were adding new accounts consistently from networking with the clients and suppliers used by his business. With the help of Phillip Idowu, Chief’s son and the links he offered my portfolio grew geometric exponentially.

He was currently out of the country overseeing a business interest of the company in Dubai. I met him once and due to his tight schedule and frequent trips we ran our meetings on the phone, phone calls, conference calling and sometimes Skype. He had given me all his numbers both in and outside the country to reach him whenever. Peju focused on Chief Idowu while I focused on Ideal Oil and Gas.

Peju found me at the canteen during lunch. She had this look of excitement on her face as she handed me an invitation card.
“Get ready to boogie. It’s Chief Idowu’s wife’s 50th birthday party, and this is our invitation,” she pointed to the card in my hands as I opened to read.
For someone who loves being by herself, I never minded parties. I love the whole dressing and meeting people, the friendly banter, jokes and laughter and the opportunity for networking.
“I am in,” I responded still reading the card.

“It is two weeks from now, and the dress theme is the 1950s,” I groaned. My high point was never in searching for clothes. Find it and give it to me to wear was more like it. I was one of those ladies that hated shopping for clothes. I checked what I wanted on the internet, where to buy and ordered online. The reason why I had stashed of unused clothes in my wardrobe; two in every five ordered did not fit. However, moving from shop to shop neither appealed to me nor was it an option. The whole idea of trying several clothes to buy one was draining.

“Dress theme?” Peju asked as she had apparently read my mind.
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 on 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 taken 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 keep 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.