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It was Monday.
Five days after she’d asked Dapo out.
Yemisi looked down on Allen Avenue from the office window. It was busy as usual, midday with the sun shining down harshly on tops, human or otherwise.
She wasn’t there though.
What she was actually seeing was a face, a face with sad eyes and lines etched into it. She thought about her best friend and wondered for the billionth time if she had done the right thing. They had spoken over the weekend, but there was some sudden awareness between them, some sort of restraint obvious in both their voices. Their usual banter was gone, in its place some kind of probing, some kind of careful as though their words had more consequences now than ever before.
She was worried. And scared.
‘Have I lost him?’ she asked aloud. Of course, she wasn’t expecting an answer.
A smile tugged the corners of her lips hesitantly; as though it wasn’t sure it belonged there. She thought about her mother’s look when she had stumbled on her daughter smiling brightly after a call with Dapo. The older woman had said nothing, only smiling knowingly as the younger one tried to hide her blushes. Maybe I shouldn’t introduce him till I’m sure…
I need a drink.
The Chi Exotic pack was freezing. Yemisi smiled at the girl behind the Tantalizers counter as she collected the package. “Thank you.”
The girl nodded. “Anything else?”
A subtle tugging; real or imagined reminded Yemisi she hadn’t had anything that morning. “A Scotch egg, a sausage roll and two doughnuts.”
The serving girl’s smile was pretty. “Okay.”
As the girl turned away to start putting the order together, a voice at Yemisi’s elbow announced itself abruptly.
“God knows I love an eating woman – amen!” as a figure plunked itself on the counter beside her. Her brows came together as she tried to look serious before turning to her right.
“Oh really?” she said.
The only reason she was able to finish her statement was because she had told her mouth what to say and it just followed through. Her brain actually froze when her eyes met those of her target.
“Yes, really.” He answered but she wasn’t exactly listening. He looked like an interesting cross between Idris Elba and Denzel Washington with a bit of Nas thrown in.
His looks were arresting.
“Um…yeah…good for you,” she mumbled and turned away from the counter.
“But you haven’t taken your order yet,” the girl behind the counter said. Yemisi mumbled an apology and carried the bags, legs tangling with each other.
“Oh crap! Sorry, give me a moment,” she said as she realized she hadn’t paid yet. She gently set down her purchases on the counter, pulled out her wallet and burst out laughing.
“You must be having fun – are you not?”
The source of her discomfort smiled. “I’m just happy I got your attention,” he grinned. “I’m Remi.”
She took her time, sorting through the bills in her wallet before selecting a one-thousand naira note and placing it flat on the counter before taking the hand he proffered. “Yemisi,” she said.
Five steps away from the counter and it seemed as though he’d just woken up.
“Hey – where are you going?”
She smiled to herself. “Work. Desk, table, computer – you know, that kind of stuff.” She didn’t stop walking as he came up running behind her.
“If you really want to know you’ll find out somehow,” Yemisi threw over her shoulder as he stopped, hands in the air. She smiled at him and then at the guard who was holding the door open.
The heat wave on Allen made her skin shrink – and she hoped he wasn’t following her.
He’s so handsome jare.
She took another bite of her roll as she looked down on Allen from the window – and started guiltily as she remembered what she had been doing the last time she was standing at that window.
She had forgotten about her worries. About Dapo.
He’s the one I’m with – he’s the only one I should be concerned with even if it’s just for three months.
And so, almost wistfully she discarded the image that reminded her of both her favorite actors.
A flash of color pulled her back to what she had been looking at but not seeing – Allen Avenue. It was a jumble at first, and then what attracted her became clear.
A girl wearing a bright red dress was crossing the road. She had her left hand to her left ear and her right hand was waving excitedly. Suddenly a black Sedan came hurtling out of the street beside Alade market, brakes screeching as the driver turned into Allen, not slowing down a bit. The car’s bumper caught the hem of the crossing girl’s dress and with a loud ‘RIP!’ tore a large chunk of it away.
The car did not slow down.
To Yemisi the whole picture was happening in high definition. She saw the girl’s dress get caught, stretch and then tear. She watched as the girl became frozen solid in the middle of Allen Avenue. She heard clearly the curses hurled after the vehicle – watched as a man ran to the girl and hurried her off the road. It all felt like a movie; or an advert – her ears were unconsciously straining; waiting for a yell of ‘CUT!’ or to at least see someone carrying a camera.
No such luck.
She did not know when she moved, but when Yemisi came to herself she was sitting in front of her computer typing something she could not make any sense of – half eaten roll on the table beside her system.
She stopped and looked at her hands. They were shaking.
The jarring buzz of the intercom on her desk was like the breaking of a million plates to overwrought nerves, and she quickly stuffed her fingers into her mouth to stop from screaming. She stood up and walked to the reception, leaving the phone ringing.
“Yes?” she said to Felicia who looked like a child caught stealing meat from the cooking pot. Felicia hastily put the intercom down and faced her. “Yes…yes! This man has a package for you,” she finished, pointing to a man wearing a dispatch rider’s costume.
Yemisi looked at the ugly man and sighed. Probably from one of the clients.
The man was carrying an average-sized box and from the way he was handling it, the box wasn’t too heavy. At her approach he balanced the box on his left hip and pulled a pad from his right chest pocket.
“Why don’t you just set it down?” Yemisi said, taking the pad from him. “Or is it a bomb?”
He smiled and she wondered how she’d ever thought he was ugly. His face had this open, defenseless look that could make a lot of women start feeling like mothers.
It was working on her at least.
“No it’s not o,” the man replied. He set the box down and took the pad Yemisi stretched towards him. Her back creaked as she straightened, lighter-than-expected box in her arms. “Thank you,” she said to the man’s back. He waved and went out of the office.
The office quieted as she came in carrying the box, but nobody said anything. Her colleagues looked on as she set it on her table and examined the box for clues as to who sent it.
But it only bore her name and office address. Nothing more.
“What is it?” Adura asked, walking over.
“We’re all about to find out,” she answered, picking up a box cutter. “Hope you’ve all repented of your sins,” Yemisi continued. “We might be about to meet our Father in heaven.”
The box surrendered easily to the razor-sharpness of the box cutter, and two smaller tightly-packed boxes showed up. She sighed in exasperation.
Is somebody playing a game?
“See anything?” Fred, her nemesis asked.
“Why don’t you come and look yourself?” she retorted. The other guys laughed, but from the silence behind her, she knew nobody was moving. She opened the larger of the two boxes and a frosty cake stared back at her. The lettering on it said ‘for my guy girl’.
She smothered happy laughter and opened the second one, a slim box that had a ribbon and another envelope attached to it. It was a bottle of fruit wine. Footsteps that seemed to be walking on eggs approached as she straightened with the card in her hands, and she waited till the steps were almost immediately behind her and then yelled; ‘RAT!!”
Adura screamed and ran back to the cover of her desk, stumbling on her own legs as she scrambled. The other guys ducked under desks and chairs to avoid the ‘rat’. Yemisi quickly slipped the card in her desk drawer and burst into laughter.
“Oh you,” Adura sulked as she carefully lifted out the larger one and sniffed it, a calculating look in her eyes. “Cake?” she asked Yemisi who nodded. “Hmm hmm.”
Fred tapped Adura on the shoulder. “Don’t you know its impolite to sniff food – especially food meant for a lot of people?”
The cake was on the largest table in the office before Adura replied. “And the ‘a lot of people’ would be who?”
Ignoring the indignant Fred, Adura folded her arms and smiled at Yemisi. “I’m so jealous right now. Can I meet your boyfriend?”
“Boyfriend?!” Fred ejaculated in mock-horror. “This manly woman has a…boyfriend?! The guy must be a hermaphrodite!”
“Soon enough,” Yemisi smiled at Adura, slight tremor in her voice betraying the sting of Fred’s thoughtless remark. She quickly shooed the admirers away from her table and cut a huge chunk of the cake. And then she called Felicia to share whatever was left before retreating to the rest room where she washed her face of tears.
She took her time, delicately opening the card.
I just want to say thank you. For being my friend. For being my girl.
I’ll make you the happiest woman ever.
She had stained the poor card with lip-gloss before she realized she was kissing it. Embarrassed, she hid it behind her back – and then caught herself at the silliness of the act.
There was a huge smile on her face – and not even the thought of Fred’s hurtful comments could dim it.
She wanted to take me out for lunch, and she said so with a hand on the sleeve of my jacket.
I acted like the warmth from her fingers was too slight to make a difference to me and looked everywhere but at her mouth as she spoke. She came to the office at the behest of one of our latest clients – she was the company’s legal adviser.
Normally I wouldn’t be involved in such a meeting – signing official documents and what nots. But in light of several recent events…
I told her no. I didn’t – don’t fraternize with clients and seeing how they were new I’d rather not.
A smile appeared on her too-thin lips and she said she understood.
“I understand,” she said.
I still have a hell of a lot to learn about women.
I was hungry. So I stood up, walked out of the office and into the Chicken Republic directly opposite my office building.
I was at the counter about to order rice and beans when I saw this couple feeding each other fries.
Wouldn’t have bothered me – or I probably would have come to tell you that story, but something about the encounter made me write this story.
The man was my boss. The lady was my ex of eight months.
I jejely* walked back to the office and decided to starve.
I don’t feel like job hunting yet. Or what should I have done?
*jejely – informal slang for ‘gently’ or ‘softly’
Someone said armed robbers should take on the wealthy. I beg to differ.
Predators prey on the weak. In other words, the weak are food for the strong. Why should an armed robber prey on a thief like him – when there are thousands of other people who would give him about the same thing with less stress? Why should I bother myself with Abgani or Genevieve – when there’s a girl right next door who’s hotter than both of them put together?
I’m at the office and I’m bored. They’re arguing as usual – arguing about something the president did or didn’t do. As though if they were there they would do any better.
I’m sitting there with an amused smile on my face – but I’m as far away from the office as salvation is from me. My mind scurries around like a rat in a maze – catching thought after thought and discarding it as fast as a child playing with hot coals. I’m bored.
The door opens and closes as I try to listen to the fools arguing. Their arguments are so irrational and disjoint – and then someone asks me what I think?
“What do you think?”
I look up – or maybe I wake up, and there they are looking at me with expectation.
“I think you guys are jobless, arguing with each other about what the president did or didn’t do. Nothing you and I say here is going to make any difference – and it isn’t like anyone of us would be more productive anyway.”
They are quiet. They are actually quiet – and then one by one they breakup the discussion and walk back to their tables, watching me from under their eyes. Heh. If what people thought actually meant shit to me…
“I didn’t know you were this harsh o. Haba. Why na?”
A hot mouth breathes into my left ear. It actually tickles an annoying bit.
I turn and look up, and it’s her; the small-boobed-tiny-waisted-bubble-butted-bow-legged dream that is the new secretary. She smells like a freshly-opened pack of Golden Morn would smell, as she bends over and I almost have my nose in her perfectly-created cleavage. She wants to play – but prudence calms my overeager senses. It would be awkward if she suddenly disappears.
I clear my throat loudly and she adjusts herself. “What is it you want?” I ask her coldly.
I have successful confused the poor girl. I see the look of dismay that appears on her face. I couldn’t give less of a fuck. “There’s a time for work, luv. And a time for playing. After work, if you feel an urge to continue – you know where to find me.”
She stumbles towards her cubicle in a hurry, almost breaking off one of the heels of the quite-high stilettos she was wearing. Behind me, I hear smothered laughter and turn towards the source of the sound. I hope to quell it with a cold look, but someone else starts laughing…and then the whole office erupts in laughter.
“But ol boi, you harsh die I swear! Abi you be gay ni?” That was Ife, the office jester.
“Maybe,” I answer, looking at him speculatively.
Maybe I am. You never know…
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