"Good evening Sir. Welcome to Balorama restaurant. Would you like to place your order now?" Theresa said, smiling, revealing the entire set of thirty two. That was how they had been trained at Balorama; to smile always. To lay whatever personal feelings they had and place the customer first. The customer was key. The customer was king. The customer was the business.
Truly, Theresa was smiling, and really putting aside her personal feelings. She had her school fees to think of. The new session had begun and she hadn't still been able to raise enough money for her school fees. Her father's medication was also pending on the list. And the landlord was also on their necks; her neck specifically. The rent was due. In the order of priority, she couldn't place which came first; her father's drugs, or the landlord's money. Her education could still wait. She could defer again. The second time.
When the customer responded, she hadn't heard what he said, but her grin was still from ear to ear.
"I'm sorry sir, could you repeat that?" She asked.
The man in the tailor-made navy blue suit was about to repeat his words when his date raised her voice.
"Are you deaf? Is your mind here at all?" The lady said.
Theresa apologized immediately before the matter got escalated. She couldn't afford to lose her job.
"I'm really sorry, Madam." She apologized.
The man told his date to let it go, then he repeated the order.
Theresa handed the piece of paper to the server and immediately went back to wait on other customers.
She glanced at the screen of her phone. The time was 10.30 PM. She had about five thousand Naira in her purse but she didn't want to spend half of it on taxi. It was late and she couldn't find any buses around and she needed to get to CMS. She saw a couple of young guys lurking around. She clutched her purse tighter. She knew they were thugs. She wanted to guard the sum of bills in the purse. Her phone rang out loud for a few seconds. It was a flash from her younger brother. She dialed back his number but as soon as she said hello, the battery of her phone went off. She remembered that she had forgotten to charge it.
That had been her life once upon a time. She had gone down memory lane as she stayed home, waiting up for her husband. Her husband was the man in the tailor-made navy blue suit.
His name was Dehinde Roland. And he owned the Balorama restaurant with his cousin, Jide Roland. Dehinde's father was the chairman of a group of companies of which Balorama was the food subsidiary of the chain. Theresa had no idea that he was actually her boss. It all started when she noticed him at the restaurant again, but without his usual snob of a date. She had gone a little further than she should have. She had taken his order, and then she had asked after the woman who always came with him. Dehinde had laughed and told her she was his girlfriend but he had broken off the relationship with her. Theresa had given him her two cents by telling him the woman was a snob and ill-mannered and that she thought he was too gentle a man for someone like that. Their little friendship started like that. She became his usual waitress and he became her usual customer. Then one day, he had requested she had lunch with him at his table. Theresa had been afraid at first because her Manager would not have relented in firing her. But she was more afraid when Dehinde called the Manager and told him to serve Theresa whatever she wanted. It was there and then that Theresa realized that Mr. Dehinde Roland was her boss' boss.
Maybe it was luck that shone on her. Mr. Dehinde picked an interest in her and told her he wanted to see her again. Their relationship started and then, he told her to quit her job and marry him. He didn't want his wife to be a waitress who worked for him. Theresa had been shocked. She had of course fallen in love with him. And it wasn't because he was rich.
She fell in love with the way he laughed, and the way he always threw his head back when he did. She loved the way he looked at her with so much emotion, and she loved the way he talked to her about his big dreams and how he still wanted to be richer than Dangote. Even if she couldn't contribute much to his plans and everything, she understood his zeal and she was more than happy to support him every step of the way. And that was why she agreed to marry him when he asked. It wasn't because he was rich.
She knew she would have to deal with his family. She expected it. She knew his mother would be a stuck up society Lagos woman, and she knew his father would expect that she at least had a Masters' degree from a foreign University. She knew his friends would expect her to be drop dead gorgeous. She expected these things because she knew she was short of all these expectations. For one, she was just a twenty four year old girl who lived and won the bread for her sick father and younger brother. Her mother was dead. She had died because they didn't have enough money for her Kidney transplant. Theresa wasn't drop dead gorgeous. She saw herself as plain enough but Dehinde always told her she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. And she wondered why he thought so. She was 5'3, dark skinned, had short receding hair, and no curves.
Her expectations were true. His family had not liked her and his friends had at least pretended to. But Dehinde had gone ahead and married her. It was only after they got married that his family began to come around. Roughly a year after they got married.
It was three years now in their marriage.
It was 01.15 AM and her husband was still not home. Theresa was worried. She wondered where he was. She had called his phone very many times. The first three times, his personal assistant picked the calls. She had told Theresa that Dehinde was in a meeting and he didn't want to be disturbed. That was 9.00 PM. She called back a couple of times later but the calls were ignored.
She was trying not to doze off when she heard the door creak open. The footsteps were bold and audacious so it was not as though he was sneaking in.
"Dehinde! Oh my God I was so worried!" Theresa ran over to her husband and hugged him. She wanted to flare up and demand answers but his coldness turned her authority to persuasion and sucking up.
"Have you eaten...Should I run you a bath?" Her voice shook. She was afraid.
She was growing afraid of the man who had once protected her from anything that scared her. He was changing. He was more distant. He always said it was work. Theresa had confronted him once if he was seeing someone else and the reply she had gotten had made her to never ask questions like that. He had hit her hard in the face and had warned her never to disrespect him like that.
He looked at her as she took his suit jacket and laptop bag from his hands. His look wasn't one of endearment. He looked...disgusted.
"Did you take a bath today?" He said.
Theresa looked at herself. She was wearing her nighty. Well, it was the same one she wore the night before. She hadn't taken a bath because she had been home all day. She was always home all day because her husband did not let her work.
"I..I have been waiting for you all day..." She stammered, stepping backwards.
"You stink." He said, looking at her with disapproval.
"What...about dinner?" She asked. He was walking upstairs already.
"Look at the clock. Dinner isn't served at 1.30 AM." He said and walked away.
Theresa didn't know what to say or do. She just stood there in her humiliation, blaming herself for why she didn't take a bath that morning.