“Does my attention bother you?”
The Ceres Juice tastes like ambrosia when it hits my tongue, so I take another long sip while I think about her question.
We’re seated in her living room – but it looks more ‘personal’ than a lot of living rooms I’ve seen. There’s a feeling of ease and comfort that comes across clearly – as clearly as her curves in the form-hugging gown she’s wearing.
What am I supposed to say to what obviously is a trick question? You know those kind of questions that no matter how you answer, your goose is cooked?
“No, it doesn’t;” I imagine myself say. “So you’re used to women throwing themselves at you,” she most likely would respond.
Or “Yes, it bothers me.” To which she’ll probably say, “Because you think I’m a woman with easy morals, abi?” or something like that.
Sigh. I come back to myself to realize I have been holding an empty glass of juice to my lips for a bit now. I blink and lower my arm, avoiding the knowing smile on her face. I reach over, spill more juice in my glass – and pause as she asks me again;
“Does my attention bother you?”
So I was asked to review this book about a genre I’m not too crazy about; steampunk. But I do so love a challenge so I dusted my table, lit a candle and got down to it.
What did I find?
There are bad days.
And then there are really bad days.
Imagine losing a race you had trained for a while for. And even though you are no stranger to loss, it still rankles because you had such hopes.
And then – as though that was not depressing enough, a man comes looking for you, gives you a strange object – and promptly hurls himself off the tower you met on. He kills himself.
And with that, Melanie Karsak introduces you to Lily of the Stargazer. An aptly named airship; even though I say so myself.
The story is one that takes you from righteous anger to depression to empathy; for the main character if for no one else. Lily has her fair share of issues; she is an opium addict, she’s in love with two men – and is running around the world chasing something she does not know. There are also people who want to kill her for what she possesses and what they think she knows – which; is just unfortunate.
Add all that to the fact that Lily’s mum once tried to kill her…
The characters are human; the subplots are interesting and engaging enough without giving the reader too much of a maze to unravel. The leading men/Lily’s love interests are strong in themselves; Lord Byron is an arrogant but kindly aristocrat, Sal is the sensitive, tender and giving soul. Wondering who Lily will eventually choose is an interesting a challenge as solving the mystery of the treasure itself.
The book is evenly paced – sometimes you want to jump ahead and see what happened, sometimes you just want to wait and allow it come to you. It is an enjoyable read, fun if not so memorable. It is definitely not a waste of time.
I look forward to reading more from Melanie.
Read an excerpt from Chasing The Star Garden:
A soft, sweet wind blew in from the port side. It ruffled my hair around my shoulders. I closed my eyes and turned the wheel slightly starboard, guiding the ship in. As the bowsprit scooped into the opening of the tower, I heard a jubilant cheer erupt from the American side and an explosion from the firework cannon signaling the winner had been declared.
My eyes popped open. I tore off my goggles and looked starboard. Cutter’s balloon was parked. I threw the goggles onto the deck and set my forehead against the wheel.
The Stargazer settled into her tower. Jessup set the balloon on hover and, grabbing a rope, swung down to the deck. He then threw the lead lines and anchors onto the platform. The beautifully dressed crowd, gentlemen in suits and top hats and fancy ladies in a rainbow of satin gowns and parasols, rushed toward the American end of the platform to congratulate the winner.
I was, once again, a national disgrace. Lily the loser. Lily second place. Perhaps I would never be anything more than a ferrywoman, a cheap air jockey.
“Good job, Lily. Second place!” Jessup said joining me. He patted me on the shoulder.
I sighed deeply and unbuttoned my vest. The tension had me sweating; I could feel it dripping down from my neck, between my breasts, into my corset.
“You did great,” I told Jessup. “Sorry I let you down.”
“Ah, Lily,” he sighed.
Angus emerged from below wiping sweat from his head with a greasy rag. He pulled off his monocle. He frowned toward the American side. “Well, we beat the French,” he said with a shrug and kissed me on the cheek, smearing grease on me.
“Good job, Angus. Thank you,” I said taking him by the chin and giving him a little shake as I wrinkled my nose and smiled at him.
Angus laughed and dropped his arm around Jessup’s shoulders. They grinned happily at one another.
“You stink, brother,” Jessup told him.
“It’s a wee bit toasty down there. Besides, I pedaled this ship across the entire fucking country while ya were up here looking at the birds. That, my friend, is the smell of success.”
“You pedaled the ship?” Jessup said mockingly. “Like Lil and I were just up here playing cards? If I didn’t keep the balloon aloft, your ass would be kissing the ground.”
“Now wait a minute. Are ya saying your job is more important that mine?” Angus retorted.
I could see where this was going. “Gents.”
“More important? Now why would I say that? Just because I’m the one . . .” Jessup started and then his mouth ran.
“ . . . and another thing . . .” Jessup went on.
“Gentlemen! Our audience awaits,” I said cutting them both off, motioning to the well-shod crowd who waited for us on the loading platform outside the Stargazer.
I grinned at my crew. “Come on. Let’s go.”
I patted the rail of the Stargazer. “Thanks,” I whispered to her, and we exited onto the platform.
A reporter from the London Times and several race officials stood waiting for me.
“Well done, Lily! Well done!” the British race official congratulated me with a pat on the back. “Second place! King George will be so proud. One of these days you’ll have it, by God.”
I was pretty sure that the last thing I needed was the attention of George IV, the extravagant, unpopular lush. But I bit my tongue and smiled politely.
“Lily, how did Cutter beat you? You led the entire race,” the reporter, a round woman wearing a very thick black lace collar which looked like it was choking her, asked me. Her heavy purple walking dress looked hot under the late afternoon summer sun. The brim of her black satin cap barely shaded her nose. I noticed then, however, that she had a small clockwork fan pin attached to her chest. The fan wagged cool air toward her face.
I pulled off my cap, mopped my forehead, and thought about the question. “Luck,” I replied.
“Lily, that was some move around Tinkers’ Tower. How did you learn to do that?” another reporter asked.
“My father,” I lied.
“Make way, make way,” one of the race officials called, ushering a Marshall forward.
The Marshall looked like someone who lingered an hour too long at supper. The gold buttons on his marigold satin vest would take an eye out if they popped. His overly tall top hat was adorned with a ring of flowers that matched his striking orange colored dress coat.
“Miss Stargazer, congratulations,” he said, shaking my hand. “The Spanish airship is coming in now. Will you please join Mr. Cutter at the winners’ podium?” he asked politely as he guided me forward by the hand.
From below there was a commotion. A man dressed in an unusual costume was rushing up the stairs. What looked like a full squadron of the Bow Street Runners, the London constables, were chasing him. When he got to the loading platform, the man pushed through a crowd of well-dressed ladies and gentlemen, many of whom were gentry. It was then I could see he was dressed as a harlequin. He wore the traditional red and black checked outfit and a black mask. He scanned the towers and caught sight of me. He jumped, landing on the tower railing, and ran toward me. A woman in the crowd screamed. Moments later the constables appeared on the platform. The race Marshalls pointed toward the harlequin who was making a beeline for me.
I let go of the Marshall’s hand and stepped back toward the ship.
“Lily,” Jessup warned, moving protectively toward me.
Angus reached over the deck of the Stargazer and grabbed a very large wrench.
Was it an assassin? Christ, would someone murder me for winning second place? I turned then and ran toward the Stargazer. A moment later, the harlequin flipped from the rail, grabbed one of the Stargazer’s ropes, and swinging over the others, landed on the platform directly in front of me. Any second now, I would be dead.
“Lily?” he asked from behind the mask.
“Stop that man! Stop him!” a constable yelled.
“Get out of my way!” Angus roared at the crowd that had thronged in between us.
The masked man grabbed me, tugged on the front of my trousers, and leaned into my ear. The long nose of the mask tickled my face. “Go to Venice,” he whispered as he stuffed something down the front of my pants.
“We got you now,” a constable said, grabbing him, raising his club.
The man shook him off, took two steps backward, and with a jump, leapt off the tower.
Several people in the crowd screamed.
I rushed to the side of the tower to see the harlequin lying at its base. His body was twisted oddly. Blood began pooling around him.
“Miss Stargazer, are you all right?” a constable asked.
“A man just killed himself in front of me. No, I am not all right.”
“I mean, are you harmed? Did he hurt you?”
I shook my head and looked down at the mangled body whose twisted form made the shape of a three-sided triskelion. It was the same symbol that was painted on the balloon of the Stargazer.
About the Author:
Melanie Karsak grew up in rural northwestern Pennsylvania where there was an abysmal lack of entertainment, so she turned to reading and hiking. Apparently, rambling around the woods with a head full of fantasy worlds and characters will inspire you to become an author. Be warned. Melanie wrote her first novel, a gripping piece about a 1920s stage actress, when she was 12. A steampunk connoisseur, white elephant collector, and caffeine junkie, the author now resides in Florida with her husband and two children. Melanie is an Instructor of English at Eastern Florida State College.
Have a great rest-of-the-week!
Read Episode I here
Read Episode II here
Read Episode III here
As they made their way down the stairs out of Dapo’s office, Yemisi walked through the decisions she’d made over the past twenty-four hours mentally. She hoped Dapo would willingly play along – but she couldn’t be sure.
His silence bothered her.
“So what’s this about, Yemisi?” Dapo said suddenly.
She sighed. She could see the signs.
“What’s what about?” she asked innocently while thinking how to tell him what she intended to. Dapo abruptly turned around and started walking in the opposite direction.
“Hey!” she yelled as she started after him. “Hey…what the hell are you doing?”
He stopped and turned. “Am I supposed to just follow you? Do I have any idea where to?” Dapo gasped and covered his mouth. “What if you’re kidnapping me for money rituals?” he whispered.
Tension left Yemisi’s body in a rush of exhaled air. “You gorilla! Do you really think I would…I could hurt you?”
Dapo’s head looked like a sprung Jack-In-The-Box as he turned this way and that, examining Yemisi critically. After almost a minute of that, he slowly straightened. “Twenty-four hours ago I would have said ‘no’ without restraint. But within those twenty-four hours you’ve gone from ‘friend’ to ‘cousin’ to ‘scammer’ – I don’t know you anymore!”
“Go jo,” Yemisi sulked, her pull on his arm contradicting her words. Dapo laughed and followed. “Where’s your car?” he asked as she headed towards the open gate.
“I decided not to drive today jare. I knew I was coming here so…” she shrugged.
As they got to the road in front of Dapo’s office, Kazeem appeared in the distance.
Yemisi felt Dapo’s body tighten and she wondered what the issue was. Her eyes followed his and she saw a portly-looking guy who looked like the light-skinned version of Wande Coal roll in their direction. She began to feel uncomfortable, silently insulting Dapo for not telling her what was wrong with her appearance.
It had to be something major, the way the guy was staring.
“Dapo! How na?” Kazeem hailed.
“I dey,” Dapo answered – and stopped as he realized he was talking to air. Kazeem was standing next to Yemisi and he was drooling.
“Hi, my name is Kaz. And you are?” he said as he snatched Yemisi’s only available hand up in a handshake.
She coughed to cover up Dapo’s groan as the Cockney-American-core Ajegunle Yoruba accent hit his ears. Glaring at him covertly, she smiled winningly at Kazeem. “I’m Yemisi, Dapo’s cousin,” she replied, slowly but firmly pulling her hand out of his grasp.
“Guy madam dey call you,” Dapo told Kazeem churlishly and literally pulled Yemisi away. She turned and waved to the guy who was standing staring after them before eying Dapo coyly. “Why are you jealous?” Yemisi asked, pouting.
Dapo was surprised. “No o, I just don’t like him. He’s the official heckler.”
“Aw, I think he’s cool,” Yemisi cooed.
Dapo’s answer was not to her. “Taxi!” he yelled suddenly.
“So where to, hotshot?”
She took Dapo’s hand. “There’s this amala joint I know on the mainland – it’s near Ozone. White House. Been there?”
“If I call you ‘guy’ now you go begin vex. What sort of girl knows all the ‘Mama Puts’ in Lagos?!”
“The kind of girl who can manage you,” Yemisi smiled in his direction. “Take us to Ozone, please,” she told the taxi driver.
“Your money na two thousand o,” the man said grumpily.
Dapo had no patience for old cabmen. They had the tendency to nag. “Babe abeg let’s go down,” he said.
Yemisi placed a restraining hand on his arm. “Baba, we’ll give you one thousand five.”
“Okay. Let’s go,” the man said.
Dapo looked outside the window as the imposing Victoria Island landscape rushed by. She stole looks at him at regular intervals – wondering what he was thinking but reluctant to interrupt.
“So you came all the way from Ikeja to V.I to take me to eat Amala at Sabo.” He shook his head slowly, a small smile on his face. “Couldn’t you have asked me to meet you there, you kolosome somebody?!”
“Would you have come if I had asked you?”
The stern look on his face made her feel like she was reporting to her boss. “If you had a serious reason – serious enough for me to stab work – yes,” he replied.
“I’ll keep it in mind for next time,” Yemisi replied, rubbing his arm gently. She hoped he wouldn’t ask her what it was about again – at least not till they were at their destination.
There was no traffic at that time of the day so within a few minutes they were walking into the White House after a small argument on who should pay the cabman and why. Yemisi’s sulking look gave her away as the loser.
“I would get into a cab with a woman and she would pay?!” Dapo argued. “Heaven forbid.”
“Obviously you’ve suddenly started thinking a woman’s place is in the kitchen abi? Maybe you want to return to your office!” she retorted angrily.
“Calm down, babe. You know I don’t think that,” he said. “I just think a man should be able to handle his business. And taking care of whichever woman he’s with at whatever junction in time is his business. That’s what I think anyways,” Dapo finished.
“Two things. One; it’s a wonder you aren’t broke yet, with the number of girls you hang around. Two –” she broke off, avoiding his playful swing at her head. “Two; this was my idea, so it’s only right that I take care of it.”
They had placed their orders and Dapo was carrying the steaming plates of Amala and Gbegiri to a table closest to the wall before he said anything.
“That’s okay then – just let the cab thing go; abeg. I’m hungry.”
Yemisi smiled and for a while, the only sounds were the chewing, swallowing and belching that came with the appreciation of good food. It was almost twenty minutes before Dapo rinsed his hands and moaned.
“Thank you for bringing me here, Yemisi. You know how far. In fact, chop knuckle.”
She bumped her knuckles against Dapo’s proffered hand. “I just thought some variation would do you good,” she said. “I don’t want to keep worrying whether you’re eating or not.”
Dapo made no comment as he unscrewed the cap of his Etana water bottle and raised it to his lips. “To you then,” he said and drank.
They were walking towards Ozone when Dapo asked, “What’s on your mind?”
She didn’t pretend misunderstanding him. “Well, it’s like this –“
Dapo’s right hand suddenly barred her from crossing the road. Yemisi froze as an Okada screamed past, and then Dapo lowered his arm and took her left hand in his right one. Her thoughts were jumbled as they crossed, but she found the warmth from his hand reassuring.
“I can’t help but worry about you,” she began. “No, let me finish. I know you said I shouldn’t and I really shouldn’t, because you’re no child and should be able to take care of yourself. But sometimes, the strongest people are the weakest.”
“Everyone needs to be someone’s baby,” Dapo interjected and nodded for her to continue.
Sudden change in temperature alerted her to the fact that they were in Ozone already, so she waited while Dapo pushed the elevator button. They hopped into the first one that came down and as they were ferried up, he asked again, “What’s on your mind?”
“I know you don’t like being fussed over, which is why you would downplay the effect the Mope episode had on you. Look, I was there, remember? You came to me the first time you saw Mope, and you said to me, ‘Guy, I just met my wife.’ And though I was tempted to ignore you, I saw something in your eyes that I had never seen before that night, something I never saw again. I know how you felt about her.”
And I kept hoping that somehow, the two of you would find each other again, and that light would come back into your eyes. And then you called me to say you had seen her but that she was getting married….” Her sigh was heavy. “You died a little that night,” she said.
“Cried, actually.” Dapo’s smile was more like a grimace, and he looked like he’d rather just forget the whole thing – but Yemisi pressed on, her voice becoming firmer as she got into the spirit of what she was saying.
“I can believe that. You also got drunk, didn’t you?”
The elevator stopped and they hopped out on the second floor. Dapo led the way, quietly weaving through lounging couples not letting go of her hand. He did not stop till they got to the escalator and ascended towards the cinema floor.
“You still haven’t answered my question.”
At Yemisi’s cocked head and raised eyebrow he reiterated, “What’s on your mind?”
“Slow down coach,” she grinned, ruffling her hair. “You’ll know when I get there.”
Dapo was moving before the escalator stopped, and pulled her gently but firmly. Rounding the bend they made for the first table which happened to be empty. Yemisi smiled and sat on the stool Dapo pulled back for her and waited till he was seated.
“I don’t want to be outside looking in anymore, Dapo. I don’t want to be awake nights wondering what’s happening with you – if you’ve eaten or if you’re fine and so on. I want to be right there with you, rain shine and all that jazz.”
She smiled a little at the warmth from Dapo’s left hand as she held it in both of hers. Looking in his eyes, she said;
“Will you go out with me?”
Let me amuse you a little.
From December last year till now, all I’ve done with my pretty companion is make out with her. I kid you not.
I really don’t know – but maybe because it’s all easy. I mean – there’s no pressure, no expectations or promises. No whispered impassioned
words, no feeling as though we have to do something…act a certain kind of way.
She’s beautiful. I’ll tell you that.
There’s this quiet smile that comes into her eyes whenever she sees – whether across the conference table in the room we have our meetings or when she opens her door and sees me framed in it.
I remember she invited me over last Friday…
I had the rare privilege of spending quality time with a 10-year old over the last holidays. The Christmas holidays.
Due to a sequence of events, I figured it’d be better if we just stayed home this time and catch up on things. I just wanted to talk with her and fill the gaps in my memory were she was concerned.
Sounded like a plan, right?
And everything went as smoothly as I’d envisioned it – I made sure we stayed in the house most of the time. All the lull and inactivity had given me a false sense of security, so I was understandably unprepared when she suddenly dumped herself in my lap one evening while I was waiting for her mother.
“What kind of water do you like?”
I screwed up my face. This pikin and her weird questions…!
“Clean, fresh water. Why do you ask, darling?”
“Well, mummy always buys bottled water – and the day I wanted to take the ones in sachets, those ones they call ‘pure water’ she was really angry with me.”
“I think that’s because…”
She raised up her hand. “And then some of the other kids at school drink water from the school tap – but mummy says I shouldn’t. I don’t understand.”
I scratched my head. “That’s simple. Water from the tap is different from water in bottles and sachets. The specially-packaged water is usually safer than the ones in taps – and the better the packaging, the safer the water.”
“But you’re not actually sure it’s safer, are you?”
Uh oh, my internal buzzer went off.
“Well – I have not had the privilege of -”
“But you cannot guarantee that it is safer. You only assume it is because it looks as though they take more time to put it in special cases and packs. There’s no evidence that it is safer, is there?”
“Well baby, we have some government regulatory boards that supervise such things -”
“The same government who cannot fix bad roads – or make sure there’s light?”
Gbam. Even I could not defend that one.
Smiling prettily to herself, she got off my lap and looked at me. “I think the people who say ‘bottled water’ or ‘pure water’ do so to confuse other people so that they think there’s something wrong with ordinary water – and have no choice but to come buy theirs.” She nodded wisely and kissed me. “Thank you.”
I sat there, stunned. This girl is way smarter than I was at her age – or even now.
Of course, some of the water are bottled under the best of conditions and therefore are supposedly ‘healthier’ alternatives to ‘tap water’.
But then, we did not always have pure or bottled water. And we were doing quite fine.
And then, as is usually typical for me, something else came to my mind. Isn’t what we adults do concerning love kind of similar to what we do with water?
Because ‘love’ has become a commonplace word, used and abused to fit all kinds of situations (kinda like ‘friend’), we feel a prefix is necessary to make a distinction. Hence the phrase ‘true love’.
And I cannot lie to you. That phrase annoys me like no man’s business.
It annoys me because what the hell does ‘true love’ mean?! Asides from the obvious implication; which is that there’s such a thing as ‘fake love’, isn’t ‘true love’ a mouthful?
As far as I know, love is love. There are certain ways you describe love that are kind of like universal. I think a lot of us; Christian or otherwise, would probably agree with the 1st Corinthians 13: 4 – 7 definition;
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
Now you might have to be specific when detailing the different expressions of love (depending on who the recipient is) – but the above clearly states a general platform which I subscribe to anyways. No matter the relationship, the love has to share those basic qualities else it’s something else I think.
I mean, how we express our feelings most likely differ from person to person and receiver to receiver (I’d have to be all kinds of crazy to even imagine Frenching my mum; EWWW) – but the patience I exhibit with her, the time I take to listen to her and understand what she’s saying is no different to the understanding I have for my spouse. Maybe at differing frequencies – but the underlying thread is the same. Love.
I think we complicate things with labels and titles – kinda like we do with ‘real man’, ‘born-again christian’ and all those others. A line from a classic ad that has me giggling to this day is;
“If e no be Panadol, e no fit be like Panadol.” In other words, it’s either it is or it isn’t.
And it really is that simple.
What do you think? Is it necessary to separate ‘love’ from ‘true love’?
Please share in the comments! Thank you!
Do I love You?!
Give me a moment – allow me kill myself,
Maybe then you’ll see there was never anyone else
Give me a moment; just because you think you can write
Don’t assume you understand the power of my words
Give me time. Let me think of what I need to say
I feel powerless at times; I hate to feel this way
But you’re the one, so I smile and grit my teeth
I hurt you, I’m selfish – but I’m the one you need
Give me a minute. Allow me kill myself,
Maybe then you’ll see you’re…you were all I had left.
Read Episode I here.
Read Episode II here.
The only reason Dapo wasn’t hung-over that morning was because he ran out of Vodka before he could get drunk.
He cut a pathetic picture as he sat in his room at three-nineteen in the morning, sucking on an empty Vodka bottle. He stuck his tongue out in a vain attempt to catch a drop. After a moment, he threw the bottle away and cocked his head, listening for the shattering sound.
Silence greeted his efforts.
Great. Can’t even break a freaking bottle.
He lay on his side and tried to sleep.
The detachment continued at work.
Despite the loud argument concerning the passing of the gay law, he sat in front of his system – looking but seeing nothing. Even when the topic turned to Man U’s steady declining performance in the Premiership, all his colleagues got from him was a bored shrug.
They left him alone after that.
And he had made some half-hearted attempts to start conversations on Facebook; asking Muyiwa what the latest update about Mope’s wedding was. But after a bit of one-syllable answers the poor boy had given up.
So Dapo sat and stared.
There was work to be done he knew, and he hated the idea of showing up to work drunk – but it seemed that the only way he could get anything done was on automatic.
Just doing. Not thinking.
Yemisi’s face drifted past in his thoughts and he reached out, grabbing and holding onto it. They hadn’t talked since the previous week – only an occasional text message for which he was grateful. As much as he liked her she smothered him sometimes – but she balanced that with knowing when to back off.
A remark from Kazeem effectively jerked him out of his reverie and dumped him back into the office.
“I don’t know what the wahala is with all the banks sef,” Kazeem began, sounding mellow. “As their costumers dey plenty na im dia craze dey multiply. Imagine say I go GT Bank yesterday –“
“Guy…abeg no yab GT o, you hear me?” That was Chidi, a new staff member who hardly spoke. “No just go there o.”
Dapo was amused. “And why should he not yab GT?” he asked.
“Because na the queue e wan complain about and truth which bank no dey get queue these days?”
“But that’s not the only reason, is it Chidi?” Dapo insisted. “You’re not defending GT because…”
“Look ehn, I met my girlfriend on one of those queues,” Chidi said, hands waving at the listeners. “It was sometime last September and it was a really long queue. I was frustrated because I had to send someone money that day and the ATM wasn’t working. I bumped into her, apologized – but then she asked me why I was the one frowning. Before I knew what hit me it was over,” he smiled self-consciously. “Are you happy now?”
The last bit was directed at the grinning Dapo.
“Well, I’m sure Kazeem won’t be complaining about the queue anymore…” he stopped as he looked for but couldn’t find the object of his comment. “Where’s Kazeem?”
“Gone off to GT no doubt,” Biodun, another girl in the office remarked wryly. Chidi chuckled.
The bbzt bzzt sound of his phone vibrating alerted him that he had a message. He pulled it from his pocket and unlocked it, watching as the lit-up screen displayed a name; Yemisi.
I’m almost at your office. Whatever you see or hear, just play along with me.
His fingers flew over the screen of the Samsung Galaxy II as he typed a response. Whatever silly stunt you’re thinking of pulling, don’t try it. I’m not…
“Hey Dapo, madam wants you,” Grace said from the doorway of the office she shared with the boss.
He sighed. “I’ll be right there,” he answered, grimacing as he pushed the green button sending the unfinished message.
“You called?” he said as he opened the door and stepped into the office. He advanced a few steps and froze, surprise halting his feet. Yemisi was seated across the table from his boss, tears streaming down her oval face. She sniffed and waved at him frailly. “Hi cousin,” she said in a watery voice.
“So why did you not tell me you just lost your auntie?” His boss asked, anger coming off her in spite of her modulated voice. “That’s why you’ve been resuming late and making unusual mistakes all week abi? Why did you not just ask for time away?”
Dapo stood there, surprise giving way to humor. Yes, he had lost an aunt recently but no one had liked the grouchy old thing and she hadn’t had any children so they had just buried her in a very private ceremony. He wondered why Yemisi was doing what she was – but he wasn’t interested.
“Look, I’m fine. I just need to chill a bit is all,” he said, the displeasure on his face evident.
“Well, she’s not and you’re the only relative around for her. So here’s what’s going to happen. Get out of here now – and don’t return till Monday morning. That should give you enough time to be fine.”
Yemisi knelt down beside the woman’s desk. “I cannot thank you enough ma…”
“It’s okay. I’m so sorry for your loss. Take care, you hear?” She waved as Yemisi hustled Dapo out of the office. “Dapo, rest o!”
He didn’t answer, instead scowled at Grace who obviously had been eavesdropping. “I’m really sorry my darling. I’ll come over and cook –“
Yemisi shoved herself between them. “I can do all the cooking he needs, thank you.” She said waspishly, startling the other woman into taking an involuntary step back. Dapo swallowed the laughter bubbling in his throat.
“Just let me get my stuff, I’ll be with you in a moment,” he said. Yemisi nodded and sat on the golden brown chaise lounge, playing with her hair. Dapo shook his head and entered his office.
“Madam says you should print out your next week’s client schedule for me so I can handle it,” Grace said as she came up behind him. She ended her movement in a body hug to his back. “Sorry baby,” she crooned.
“Thank you, Grace.” Dapo said as he leaned in front of his computer. His Facebook bar was blinking and so he clicked on it. It was a message from a real-life cousin of his, unlike the one waiting in the lobby. Quickly he scanned the message; it was something about said cousin returning home shortly and waiting to hang out with his baby cousin – baby cousin being Dapo.
Yeah yeah. How much older than me is he anyways?
He was going to type a response and then thought better of it. He logged out of Facebook and quickly sent the client schedule to the printer. Walking over to the machine, he pulled out the paper and handed it to Grace who asked; “Will you be okay?”
The slight tremor in her voice compelled Dapo to run his eyes over her face – her eyes in particular. They looked wettish-red; tears hovering somewhere in their depths. It was a slap in the face for him; realizing the depth of Grace’s feelings.
But she’s married with kids!
“Are you okay?” he asked, gently putting a hand on her shoulder.
She sniffed and smiled. “You know I worry about you – and now that I finally know what the problem is I’m just so sad – at the same time relieved.” She smiled in his face. “Go jo, and take care. Have a great weekend.”
He threw his jacket over his shoulder and smiled at her as he exited the office, self-consciously sucking in his belly. This guy is growing in leaps and bounds, he admitted sadly.
Yemisi was looking out of the lobby window when he joined her again. “What took you?” she asked, looking like an over-protective sister. He grabbed her elbow gently, noting how good she looked in a grey-blue blouse and black jeans. She was wearing Converse sneakers.
“I wonder why you insist on hiding your legs – in jeans no less.”
Yemisi was stung. “Because they’re thin!” she cried.
Dapo shook his head. “Sha let’s go, ‘cousin’.”
As they made their way down the stairs out of Dapo’s office, Yemisi walked through the decisions she’d made over the past twenty-four hours in her mind. She hoped Dapo would willingly play along – but she couldn’t be sure. His silence bothered her.
“So what’s this about, Yemisi?” Dapo said suddenly.