It did not help that somehow, the alarm was not loud enough to wake her up from sleep. She had passed out on the sofa in the living room, and somewhere between 2.30a.m to 3.00 am, she had staggered into her bedroom, entered into the bathroom and eased herself. She hadn’t even washed her face or gotten out of her work clothes. By the time she opened her eyes, it was 7.45 a.m. It took her approximately an hour and thirty minutes to get to the office. She remembered the 9a.m meeting with the foreign clients. They were supposed to meet at their office which was located somewhere in Ikeja G.R.A.
Hurriedly, she grabbed her phone and searched the Taxi app for the nearest cab to take her to her destination. First, she was not very familiar with places in the Mainland and would rather not risk driving and getting there late or entering one way and fall into the hands of LASTMA or VIO because despite all her legal prowess, she wouldn’t be able to do much and she didn’t want to start having to bribe her way out. Second, it was date night with the boo and he was going to come pick her up at the office. There really was no point driving.
Somehow, under ten minutes, she ‘d had a quick shower, selected a stretchy basic mustard camisole and a black jersey bodycon skirt and threw a navy blue blazer which was made of tweed, hence, there was no need to press the clothes. She was a pretty girl but she didn’t want to risk attending a first impression and high potential meeting by showing up like she was just stepping out a vigil at church. She did a rush job with her foundation and compact powder, applied some bold red lippy she had stolen from her sister’s makeup purse and grabbed her five inch shoes, all the while waiting for the driver’s phone call. She looked at her watch again. It was 8.07am.
“Where in the world is my ride for God’s sake!” She yelled rhetorically. She was starting to panic. She had planned to be there at least fifteen minutes before. She just hoped there wouldn’t be much traffic. She headed into the kitchen and took a bottle of cold water from the refrigerator, gulped it to half, and started to munch on a carrot stick. She didn’t even remember to heat last night’s food from The Place.
Her phone rang. She dashed for it. Probably the driver was around. It was Mr. Wale Wright.
“Good morning sir.” She said.
“Hi Tony. Good morning. I wanted to tell you I’d be running a little late so I should show up at worst, 8.50 a.m. I know we should go over some of the documents we want to present to them. I can’t seem to access them on my device. Bad network. I’m sure you sent them from the office system to your device…”
It wasn’t a question. He was affirming that she must have had the initiative to send the necessary documents from the office system to her personal device ahead of the meeting. She sighed. She had been so busy with Dan that she forgot to do that. She looked at the time again. She didn’t have much time at all anymore.
“Um..yes…yes sir.” She said.
As soon as he ended the call, she called her colleague, the NYSC girl. Her name was Sharon. Sharon reminded her that it was her community development day so she was not going to be at the office.
“Shit!” Tony yelled, at the same time surprised at her own cursing.
She called Yvonne and got her to find a way to send the document from her office computer to her email. She would change her password when she got back to work. Somewhere in between, her phone rang. It was the cab driver.
They had been stuck at the Lekki Toll gate for six minutes and several danfo buses were somehow managing to corner their ways ahead of the three cars in front of her ride.
“God, I am running late! My boss is gonna have my head today!”
The driver looked at her from the rear view mirror, quite unsure of what to say.
“So sorry about that…I wish there was something I could do to help.” He said.
“You should have come earlier! That would have sure helped.” She snapped. She saw the email notification from her office mail. Yvonne for president! She hurriedly sent her a thank you text.
By the time they got to the bridge linking VI to Ikoyi, it was already 8.40a.m and she knew she was done for.
“Madam, please do you know any landmark around your destination?” The driver asked.
She looked up sharply.
“What?” She opened her eyes wide.
“I don’t really know where it is but I’m using my map…I was just thinking…”
“You have got to be kidding me!” She ran her fingers over her head.
“Oga, you know what ehn, please just find somewhere to park. I will take a bike and find my way.”
“Mr. Driver, don’t upset me further please!” She yelled angrily. She continued to hit the seat in front of her till he parked the vehicle and she got down.
“Terminate the freaking trip. And you are definitely getting terrible reviews and stinkers! Rubbish.” She hissed.
She immediately flanked an empty okada and jumped on it. She didn’t care if the okada man was charging her Two Thousand Naira for the trip. She just had to get there within that little bracket of fifteen minutes.
She deleted a few words from the email she was composing and tried to redraft it. She was replying about six emails that had dropped in her office inbox that morning. Two were from Mrs. Pius. She was informing Tony that the Agreement had been signed but that there was a stakeholders’ meeting at Abuja and she wanted legal representation from Dealridge. Dan would not be at the meeting because he had to supervise some work at Bayelsa. She knew for sure without Mr. Wale Wright having to say anything that she was booked for a flight to the FCT for Monday morning.
The other mails were from other clients. One of them was contesting the fees that Mr. Wright had billed him for perfecting title on a Deed of Assignment. She wondered why that was sent to her and not to Mr. Wright himself.
Mr. Wright had arrived at the meeting before her and she could feel his wrath the moment she walked into the conference room at the clients’ office. She was a little destabilized at the meeting but somehow, she managed to give a good presentation and answered all the legal questions pertaining to their business while Mr. Wright in his usual manner talked about how much money they would need to spend and how they would be getting the best service from his company. One of the men commended Tony’s intelligence and Mr. Wright laughed, letting both proprietors know that he had trained Tony for four years and she was doing him proud. She rolled her eyes and shook her head as she joined in the laughter. On their way back to the office, he didn’t speak to her. She could tell he was being cold and she didn’t know why he behaved like that. The man was almost fifty years old yet he acted so childish sometimes.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Wright.” She finally broke the ice.
He looked at her. The driver looked in the rear view mirror to eavesdrop as usual.
“Tony, you are like my best staff. You are the one person I can rely on for work that isn’t even related to your department. Every client wants you to do their work…”
Why don’t you pay me more? She sarcastically thought.
“I like perfection. You know me. I don’t like to joke with my work. I give you transport allowance now, don’t I? Or is there a problem?” He continued.
“I…I worked so late yesterday and I was really tired. And there was traffic. I even had to take a bike from Ikoyi…” She said. She hated to complain.
“Bike? Ha, please take it easy. You are a slay queen or what do you youngies call it these days?” Mr. Wright laughed. “I couldn’t live anywhere other than Ikoyi. It’s very central.”
She laughed. Didn’t this man know she was earning a bloody N330,000.00 and couldn’t afford a BQ in Ikoyi? Not everyone had a huge bank account or was married to an ex deputy governor’s daughter like him.
“Maybe if my salary increases I can come and join you in Ikoyi.” She teased, but hoping he would catch the sub in her tease.
“You can stay at the guest house sometimes if it gets too late for you to go home. That way you can even work better.” He said.
She smiled at her slave driver. The guest house was at 1004 Estate in Victoria Island.
“And I know you are due for a raise. I’ll ask HR to add a few thousands here and there for you. Between 370 to 400 monthly. Gross, not net. I hope that will be okay and I will have your full service, Miss Lewis.”
She beamed. She could have hugged him. She didn’t know how to thank him enough. She started to think of all the things she could spend on and the extra money she would save. She had promised her sister a graduation gift for being one of the best students in her class. She had wanted to do something really nice for her considering the fact that she missed the graduation ceremony because of work. Then she thought of Jimi. He was the reason she had been really low on cash for some time. She was so thrilled and wanted to share the news but she knew that she couldn’t tell him. He would either get jealous, or start planning on ways they would spend the money together.
By close of business, she didn’t have so much work on her table anymore. Plus it was someone’s birthday at work so there wasn’t much official activity. It seemed Mr. Wright was in a good mood. She only found out why when he confirmed that the foreign clients had sealed the deal with them and was looking to start work as soon as possible. She was glad. She prided herself in the fact that she was able to deliver without a doubt despite the entire drama that happened in the morning.
She tried not to eat too much because Jimi had told her he was taking her to a nice place for dinner. She was happy that he was doing something nice for her. Perhaps he just got paid, or one of his numerous side hustles finally clicked. She joined the other colleagues at the office lounge, and started to sip on a glass of apple juice and bite on a small slice of carrot cake.
“Can I join you for a ride today?” Yvonne took a seat beside her, gulping down a bottle of coke. The girl was one of those hot admin staff who made you wonder how much front desk officers actually got paid as salary. She was a baffer to the core, the original slay mama. She was wearing a yellow full circle pleated skirt with a sequined and beaded tank and red bottoms. How did Yvonne afford to buy bloody red bottoms? Or the rich and bouncy luster of her 360 closure weave? Her makeup nko? On fleek, despite the fact that it was close of business already and everyone was tired.
“Fine girl like you. All those your toasters that come to pick you up, where are they?” Tony said.
“Just wait for a little bit more. I got a small car already…but we are having small clearance issues.” She replied.
Tony nodded, smiling.
“Well, I didn’t come with my car today. I had to take a taxi. In fact, I had to get on a bike today to meet the appointment.”
Yvonne burst out laughing.
“You? I hope nobody saw you on third mainland bridge.” She laughed. “You this abroad babe.”
Tony laughed. At the point of riding on the bike, she hadn’t even cared if anyone saw her.
“Mr. Wright would have killed me if I got there later than I did.” She said.
“Hmm…at least he is appreciating you. I hope they promote you. I think Tinuke is coming over next week to pack her stuff. I heard from Rukewe in HR that she sent in her resignation already. That makes you Head of Legal automatically. But I also heard Mr. Wright wants to try to beg her to stay. You know she knows all those top Abuja clients that she has worked with for many years. In fact she knows both Abuja and abroad clients. Her husband’s brother is a married to Vice President’s niece. Mr. Wright no go wan lose clients o.” Yvonne said, positioning herself properly on the seat.
Tony looked at her.
“But Mr. Wright also has his top contacts…and I know a number of them…”
“You know your oga loves money. He has clients, and he has top clients and he has toppest toppest clients.”
“I work really hard. I’m sure he sees all that and he knows this. I just don’t know why they haven’t recommended me for a promotion yet.”
“It’s those witches in HR na. They behave like gods.” Yvonne snorted. Soon though, one of the HR witches called Yvonne to go answer the front desk line so she had to leave.
Tony picked up her phone. She wasn’t about to consume herself with worry over her job. All she needed was some time with Jimi and a long night of rest (and cuddling and more…with him.) She had to admit that she had missed him so much also. He was broke, but he had a high balance in the sexual department. He was her first and only. Perhaps that was one of the reasons she couldn’t bring herself to leaving him. She didn’t want to amass a body count. She didn’t want other men even though she fathomed it sometimes.
She saw his text message. He was downstairs. She suddenly became very giddy and anxious. She hurried to her desk, grabbed her bag and shut down her computer. Thankfully Mr. Wright had left also.
She said her byes to the others and hurried into the elevator.
“Hey hotness.” Jimi said. He came down from the car and opened the passenger door for her. She loved the little gestures and things he did for her. He tried to kiss her but she was a little reluctant. She didn’t want her colleagues or those around to see too much, especially someone like Yvonne.
“How was work?” She asked him. He started the ignition and hit the road.
“Yea. It was okay.” He smiled.
She was hoping to hear that he got some new income. She wanted to tell him about her raise too but she knew better so she kept quiet.
“New? Why?” He looked at her.
“Why are you…defensive?” She looked back at him.
“Nothing…I’m not.” He said and switched on the radio to 98.5 FM. Mayorkun’s Mama was on air.
“The weirdest thing happened this morning. I woke up so late. I was so tired. And I had an early meeting. My taxi did not show up on time and when he finally did, we got stuck in traffic. I had to come down at Ikoyi and take a bike to Ikeja GRA!” She said.
“Babe that is so dangerous. What’s wrong with you? Why didn’t you call me?”
“Get dangerous or get broke.” She laughed.
“My brother called today. He said he finally got the divorce from the white woman.” He said.
His younger brother had been an illegal immigrant in the United Kingdom who had done all sort of menial jobs to earn a living. He lived larger than life though and somehow, his family back home had the impression that he was working a very corporate job to maintain his lifestyle the entire time. He had been running from the law for six years until he finally found a whitey to marry him. His whitey was forty five. He was thirty one. The woman was a widow of a medical doctor who sought companionship in a younger black lover. After two years of the marriage, Jimi’s brother met a Nigerian girl and wanted to get married to her but Whitey wouldn’t grant a divorce until she finally got fed up and found love in the arms of a lesbian partner.
“So now he can marry his girlfriend.” Tony said.
“Yes o. Finally. God is faithful.” Jimi replied.
She sighed. Sometimes she didn’t understand the kind of person she was dating.
“As soon as he marries her, I know things will work out and then we can join him there too, you know. He will help me and then we can get jobs or study and we live a better life. This country is just so limiting and useless.”
She didn’t know what to say to that. Did he think things were as easy peasy as that? Besides, she loved her job. She did not want to relocate. But at the same time, she did not want to have another argument with him because she didn’t want them to fight and not have the sex she was craving already.
They got to a restaurant somewhere in Victoria Island and Jimi parked the Honda. He opened the door for her and led her into the restaurant. He had made reservations. How sweet. She kissed him spontaneously. She loved when he did nice things for her.
“Tony…” He started. He sipped from his glass of wine and then placed his hand over hers. She dropped her fork to her china and looked at him.
“Yea?” She searched his eyes.
“I just wanted to really apologize for everything. I know I have been a jerk lately. I know I have put you through stress emotionally and financially too. I promise you that everything I’m working on is going to pull through and we will reap the benefits. I love you so much.”
She smiled and nodded.
“Jimi I love you too. You know I will always support you. I just want things to be better, you know.”
“Promise you won’t leave me. I know a lot of guys will come around you. You’re a fine girl. A very focused and successful young woman and I don’t say this often but I am very inspired by you.”
She thought he was going to say proud. But inspired was ok too.
“Leave you? Jimi if I wanted to, I would have left you ages ago.”
He tried to assimilate that for a few seconds then he smiled and kissed her hand.
“That’s why I know it’s you I want to spend the rest of my life with. I want to love you forever.”
Tony started to look puzzled.
He stood up from the chair, got on one knee and brought out a ring from his pocket. She was lost. She was smiling. She was filled with mixed emotions.
“Please marry me, Tony Lewis.” He said.
She had imagined this moment a million ways a million times. She always wanted to be surrounded by friends who would take pictures and videos of her dressed up in custom made pieces and fleeked up makeup. But it didn’t matter that she was in work clothes with no one to take professional shots or scenes. A few people beside them started clapping and some started to take pictures. She smiled. At least that would suffice.
“Oh Lord, Jimi!” She reached for him and kissed him and he slid the ring on her fourth finger.
Everything was falling into place!
By the time they were through with dinner, the waiter brought the bill. She excused herself to go use the bathroom slash take selfies of the ring and post pictures to her friends. She wasn’t sure she wanted to post it on Instagram or Snapchat yet. She wanted better lighting so the ring could bling and blind.
Jimi took the bill from the waiter and looked at it. He reached for his wallet in his pocket and started to count some Naira notes. 1000s, 500s, 200s and some 50s.
“Em… I don’t have up to Nineteen Thousand Naira in cash. Please let me use your POS.” He said, putting the money back into the wallet and clearing his throat to make way for confidence in his speech.
Tony was back at the table in a bit, still all smiles.
“Hey babe.” She said lovingly at her fiance, taking her seat and finishing her glass of wine.
“I’m sorry sir, the card has been declined.” The waiter said.
“What?” The newly engaged couple both said in unison. One in embarrassment and the other in a not too surprised shock.
“Try it again. It must be network.” Jimi said.
The waiter entered the details again and Jimi punched his pin.
“Declined.” The waiter repeated.
“Use my Sterling Bank card. I don’t know why GTB is not going through…” Jimi insisted, handing the Sterling Bank card to the waiter.
“Declined –again.” The pitch of Waiter’s voice had taken a discouraged dip and he was not sounding very pleased because there was probably no hope of a tip anymore.
Jimi opened his mouth….to gasp for some air.
Tony placed her glass of wine on the table and tried to avoid the waiter’s eyes.
“Can you take half of it from my GTB and half from my Sterling and then some cash to balance it?” Jimi said. “To balance the money…” He expatiated.
Tony hissed and grabbed her bag, storming out of the restaurant, leaving behind a confused Jimi who was trying to chase after her in the midst of the waiter’s tight grip and the silent but piercing looks of the same people who had clapped at their proposal scene.