Time: The End?
A Week Later.
“Oga, that is the seventh time you’ll be sighing in this briefing. What is the matter?”
He jumped to attention and looked at the speaker. “Why you dey show yourself na?”
The speaker smiled and wiggled red-tipped fingers from the other side of the conference table. “Because we both remember what happened the last time we both were here.”
Indeed. He remembered.
“Now that we all are on the same page, listening to the same thing,” Temi said from the head of the table, voice dripping with sarcasm, “Are there any questions?”
Chris raised his hand, inspiring a low snigger from Agnes. “Yes?” Temi answered, the word clipped as though she was speaking from in-between clenched teeth.
“Do we have questions? Questions about what?”
Temi looked at Chris and Chris sat back down.
“Join me in my office, Chris.”
Agnes smiled as the click-clack of Temi’s heels faded away.
“I thought we were done with all that, Chris dear.”
He shrugged. “We are o. I was just thinking about you – and something I should tell you.”
Her smile widened and something inside Chris seemed to shrink. “Finally!” she gushed. “Well – even though I have been waiting for a bit, I can still wait some more. Go ahead and see what she wants.”
Wondering if that smile would remain just as blinding after he told her what he intended to as he turned away from it, Chris adjusted his blood-red tie and walked into the corridor towards Temi’s office. He was confused; torn between his feelings for Agnes and the realization that one of the women he had slept with while he was on compulsory vacation was her sister.
As for Temi, he had been trying to see if there was going to be any attitude relating to their tryst – but she acted as though nothing happened.
Which was very convenient for him.
Agnes was already complicated enough – one more of that to the mix and he would probably lose his mind.
Her office door creaked as he opened it, and he found her regarding him with calm apathy. “Hello there, Chris. Come in. Shut the door.”
He cleared his throat as he took his seat, the odd out-of-place feeling assailing him again. “I’m sorry – I was distracted…”
“I know. Which is why you’re here.”
She paused, inhaling deeply. “As I said, I am leaving for a seminar-slash-training trip at the end of the week. I will be gone for three weeks, during which you will sub for me.”
At Chris’ open-mouthed expression, she raised her hand.
“I’m not done. Agnes will support you – she’s quite proficient with the field staff. She’ll handle that side of things, you deal with the admin.”
She paused again, and then a small smile teased the corner of her mouth. “I know you’ve been dying to ask me why what happened in Calabar happened – or maybe you don’t really want to ask – but you’ve been wondering about it.” She inhaled and her smile became wider. “Well, chalk it up to a woman’s want. That’s all there is to it.”
Temi straightened and stood up, something in gesture making Chris follow suit.
“I also know that Nnamaka’s involvement further complicates matters between you and Agnes. I know – I work here too oga. I think you should just be grateful – wipe your mouth, cherish the memory and move on. Don’t suddenly grow a conscience.”
She turned away, towards the water dispenser behind her chair, thus simply dismissing Chris.
He was still in the restroom, forty-something minutes later when Agnes barged in.
“What is it? What did that…that…what did she say to you this time?”
The beginnings of a smile made light of the darkness of his face. “Nothing o – at least, nothing like what you’re thinking. She just repeated what she said about her trip and so on – “
Agnes looked relieved for a small moment – and then the frown reappeared between her fine eyebrows.
“So what is it na? Why are you so one-kind?”
Chris sighed. “Well, I suppose I should just tell you.” He rose from his seat on the un-raised toilet seat and stood face to face to her, chest crowding hers in the confining cubicle. “This place gets crowded in a hurry.”
Nodding, Agnes led the way out of the cubicle and towards the lobby. Slowing down and waving at the receptionist, she was however surprised as Chris took her arm and led her out of the office and into the parking space.
He sighed again. “Agnes, the only reason I haven’t…look, I still have feelings – strong feelings for you…”
Her jump-and-kiss-in-one-move silenced him. “Wait…wait…” he struggled to speak, trying to get his hands in between their bodies without hurting her. “You might not be so happy when you hear what I’m about to say,” he said as soon as he was able to hold her.
Fear made a hollow cask of her eyes; eyes that were, a few moments ago aglow with life and feeling. It almost made Chris suck up what he was about to say…
What if she finds out?
How would she? Who else knows?
WHAT IF SHE FINDS OUT?
And he had no answer.
“Agnes…I…I…” He broke off and looked at her again; lower lip trembling, chest heaving, breath hitching from the agitation of her feelings…
“Agnes, I love you.”
And the light – oh, the light that shined from behind her eyes and brightened her smile made the ‘lie’ worth it! She hit his chest with a flailing hand as she tried to speak. “You…” she stopped, choking.
She tried again. “Chris…” She pounded on his chest as he tried to grab her in a hug…
And then she burst into tears.
Chris held her against his chest as she sobbed tears – tears that felt like a boil finally letting go of pus. She leaned against him and cried. While he looked over her head, blank look on his face complimented by what he was staring at.