The feel of the cool and chilly breeze from the LG air conditioner which was right above her work space awakened the drowsiness in her. It probably did not help that she had just downed a full plate of coconut rice and smoked turkey wings at the cafeteria on the fifth floor. Something beeped. She looked at her computer screen. It was an email from Mrs. Pius. She guessed what the content would be without even clicking on the Webmail notification. Mrs. Pius was her boss’ favorite client. It was very obvious that the woman had a stinky attitude and treated staff with absolute disrespect but as long as she continued to need the services of Dealridge Ltd for her many property transactions which were very valuable because she was the wife of a top senator representing a state from the East, all staff knew that it was expedient to tolerate that bad attitude and relish it as a luxury spa treatment in the hands of a professional masseuse.
Tony had worked with Dealridge for a few years. She started precisely on her twenty third birthday. She had just returned from the United Kingdom the week before when the email came in on the eve of the 17th of August, asking her to resume work the following day. She didn’t know if it was a blessing or an annoyance. She had applied to the company in the previous month and they had Skyped her for an interview. They said they would revert but she didn’t hear anything from them since then. She had made plans with her boyfriend, Jimi to check into a hotel somewhere in Victoria Island and to kick start a fun weekend for her birthday. One of the problems she and Jimi had was the distance in their relationship because she had decided to go pursue her dreams of a master’s degree in commercial law. Perhaps he was secretly envious, she couldn’t exactly tell. He was twenty nine at the time and was earning a miserly salary less than what her father gave her as upkeep. She loved him. He was a great and good guy, and he had his good looks. She was a sucker for looks. Perhaps that even came higher on her future husband list; Looks before Funds.
A lot had happened in four years since then. First, she had been promoted twice and now, she had an eye on becoming Lead Legal Counsel at the company. She was five years at the bar already and she knew the ropes of everything she needed to know at the company and in real estate and property development. She had gotten a lot of poach offers from rival companies, but there was one attribute that stood out for her.
Loyalty. Loyalty had made her stick to Jimi even when it was clear he didn’t really have a plan for his future…or their future. Loyalty had made her stand by her boss and help him grow Dealridge to greater heights despite better offers. Loyalty had made her ignore a scholarship offer for a Ph.D in Canada because she wanted to stay in Nigeria and make the relationship with Jimi work.
But she was starting to run out of loyalty pills. She deserved an award for being the most supportive girlfriend ever. While all of her friends were either sharing stories of their children’s mischief and naughtiness, she was still trying to get Jimi Sanni to pop the almighty question and propose to her. It had been six years of their relationship. Jimi was in his mid-thirties now and still kept the same job where he earned N75,000. 00 monthly. That wasn’t what irked her. She was loyal after all. Rather, it was his sense of bothersome entitlement. He felt that it was the right thing for her to do by supporting him financially, because as far as he was concerned, she knew that the rent was high and she knew that he needed a functional car. And of course, Tony did not want her friends or family to look down on her man. So she tried to support him with N50,000. 00 from her monthly remuneration of over N300, 000. 00.
The sound of her intercom buzzed her back to reality.
“Hello, Yvonne.” She answered. Yvonne, the front desk admin had transferred a call to her desk.
“Hi, Tony. It’s Mrs. Pius on the line for you.” Yvonne said.
“Oooo God. Why now? I haven’t even read her email…” She clutched the phone to her ear and tried to read the content of the email on her HP screen. She reached for the mouse and clicked on the mail.
Hello Miss Lewis,
I have reviewed the Property Development Agreement you sent last night. I am comfortable with majority of the clauses but my manager thinks that there are too many freebies we are giving to the other party. The financing of the project for instance and the lump sum they are requesting.
Treat urgently. I have copied your boss in this mail.
Tony shook her head and sighed. Why did the woman feel the need to always threaten her by actually letting her know that Mr. Wright was copied in the mail?
“Hello Miss Lewis, how are you? Did you get my email? I sent it about an hour ago and I am yet to get a response from you. Is Mr. Wright in the office?” Mrs. Pius blurted out all at once.
Tony sighed again, trying to pick which of the numerous questions to answer from the buffet of interrogations.
“Good afternoon Mrs. Pius. Yes I have received your email and I am reviewing the agreement a third time. I will send a reviewed draft to you shortly.” She responded as calmly as she could.
“I think it’s better if you emailed it directly to my manager. Better still; why not speak with him so that you both can go over whatever reservations he has? I have to be out of the country for my daughter’s graduation tomorrow so I need this sorted out before I return next week Monday. I will text his phone number to you. Give him a call. His name is Daniel.”
Again, Madam said in a mouthful and ended the call before Tony could respond.
She saw the notification again on her screen. It was a new email from Mrs. Pius providing the contact info of her manager.
That was Mr. Wright’s voice. She turned her chair to face him. He was holding his MacBook and his tan colored leather man-bag. She could tell he was about to leave. She looked the clock. It was almost 6p.m.
“You don’t have plans for tonight, right? Daniel is coming over. I was just informed that the documents need to be signed by tomorrow morning because the property owner is travelling to Germany. He’s on Buhari’s entourage for that summit.”
Tony opened her eyes wide. He wasn’t even asking if she had plans. He had answered that himself.
“Tonight? Tomorrow?” She stuttered.
“What? You can’t? You have somewhere you need to be? ”He said, raising a well arched rough brow.
She wanted to make Lead Legal Counsel.
“I can handle it…sir.” She said.
“Good. Dan will be here in roughly thirty minutes. You guys can work together and if it’s getting late, take the party to the office guest house.” He walked towards her. “Get the key from Yvonne. And Tony, you have to be careful okay? Strictly business. Dan is…”
“Dan is what?”
They both turned to face the young man who had walked in. She assumed that was Mr. Dan. He was tall, lanky but with a strong build and she could literally see the six million pack abs from his Barba Napoli shirt. He had good looks! Her weakness! How was she supposed to cope in a guest room all alone with this walking god? He smiled. He had dimples!
Mr. Wright laughed and shook his head as they man- hugged.
“Dan is early.” He said.
“It had better be early you were going to say.” Dan laughed.
“Yea, I was already on the Island when Madam told me I needed to be on a work…date.” He turned to look at Tony. She suddenly became uneasy in her seat. She did not like the effect Dan was having on her. For goodness sake she hadn’t even started working with him and she was all melted ice cream already.
“I think I like this work date.” He laughed.
“This is my valuable staff, Miss Lewis. Do not try anything randy.” Mr. Wright said.
Mr. Wright shook his head and headed for the exit.
“I have to run. I have a wife waiting for me at home.”
Tony rolled her eyes. How selfish. He was going home to meet his family and he didn’t even feel a little guilty that he was asking her to work late. She was a woman for goodness sake. It wasn’t safe for her to stay out late.
Her other colleagues were starting to leave. It was close of business already.
“Hello.”Mr. Dan said. “Your boss is really cruel leaving you here with a workaholic like me.”
“Workaholic? You mean we are really going to work that late?” She said.
“I am Daniel Adebiyi. I’m the manager she told you would make your life hell.”
“To..Tony. Tony Lewis.” She said.
“That’s a very interesting name…for a lady. All along I thought the emails were from a guy. I could have been more lenient.” He said. He took her hand and kissed it. She swallowed with some discomfort. He dragged an empty swivel chair and sat in it, placing his feet on her desk. She looked at his shiny shoes. She could tell they were expensive.
“It’s Antonia. Everyone calls me Tony.” She said. “Can you move your feet from my desk?”
He paused, looked at her for a while, before he put his feet down.
“My manners. I left them in my S-class downstairs at the parking lot.” He smiled.
She didn’t think that was funny. Was he trying to show off?
“Perhaps we can start work now.” She fake-smiled. She clicked on her computer and opened the Agreement.
“What did you say you had a problem with? I think the Agreement adequately protects your company.” She said.
“Everything. It’s drafted wrongly. Firstly, why are they allowed to bring in other engineers to perform integrity tests on the construction works? Our firm has engineers for these things you know.” He said.
“It’s a standard clause…there has to be a neutral and unbiased professional to do that.”
“But this is at extra cost to us. It says we are going to bear the cost of that. Shouldn’t you be trying to help us save cost?” He said.
Her phone beeped. It was Jimi. She ignored it and cut the call. The phone rang a second time and a third then she switched it off.
“I’m sorry…where were we?” She said, trying to avoid his prying eyes.
“Your husband? It’s just 7.30pm…” He said.
“No.” She answered, looking away sarcastically. He knew she was Miss Lewis.
Her other phone started to vibrate in her tote bag.
“I’m so sorry Mr. Dan…” She reached for the phone and answered it.
“I am still at work! I can’t talk now.” She yelled silently, between gritted teeth.
She ended the call and avoided Dan’s eyes.
“Look, if it is really important I think you should answer the call…” He said.
Tony shook her head.
“It’s okay. It’s not that important.” She replied.
She stood up and walked towards the shelf behind the work space where several law books and journals were carefully arranged. She reached for a precedent book and begun to flip the pages.
“Are you sure this document will be signed by tomorrow though?” She said.
“We have no choice. We have rival competitors you know. And this is a big deal for Madam. It’s worth almost a billion Naira.” Dan said.
“Won’t their lawyers want to review the document again before executing?”
“The more reason we have to hurry up, send a draft to Tolu, their lawyer, and prepare the final copies.”
She found the clause she was searching for and got to work.
Her stomach started to growl. She was hungry again. And she was a little embarrassed. Dan heard it and couldn’t just be a gentle man about it.
“I’m starting to feel bad. Should we do dinner somewhere close by?” He said.
She shook her head, laughing.
“I’m fine. Yes, tired. But I’m good. I’m sure we are almost done.” She said. She typed a few more words in her computer and Dan leaned over to read. She smelt his cologne. She looked at his arms. His sleeves were rolled up against those strong biceps.
“I think we are good…hopefully Tolu and his team agree with this final draft. Please forward it to him. Copy me and Wale but blind copy Madam.” He said.
She nodded and obeyed. In a few minutes, his phone rang. It was Tolu.
He had some more complaints and reservations and corrections.
She looked at her watch. It was 9p.m.
She pushed the door of her one bedroom apartment open. She was extremely tired. It was 11pm and she had to be at a meeting for 9am the next morning for a new deal with the proprietors of a foreign construction company who were looking to establish business in Nigeria. Mr. Wright had met them at a party he attended over the weekend and they had exchanged contacts. She needed an assistant badly. The only other colleague in the legal department was a youth corper who was just learning the ropes. Her direct boss, Tinuke, who was the Lead Legal was on maternity leave and rumor had it that she would probably not be returning to the company but nothing was confirmed yet. Tony badly wanted the career climb. She had set a goal to achieve certain things before she turned thirty which was in three years. First, she wanted to be at the top of her career after which she would start to aim for ED. Second, she wanted to get married. It wasn’t because of societal or family pressure. She just knew it was time to no longer remain alone.
She dropped her tote on the console table and took off her high heels. Thankfully they were block heel platforms. She switched on the floor lamp and sank into the sofa. Dan had insisted on dinner so they stopped by The Place and grabbed some take away food. But now, she was even too tired to eat. She decided to put the food in the freezer and heat it for breakfast the next day if she had the time. She barely cooked anything in that kitchen and most of the time, she wondered if she was truly wife material.
Her phone started to ring. It was Jimi.
“Hey.” She said. She was not ready for an argument with him.
“Tony I called you several times. Are you still mad at me?”
“Jimi, look, I have had a terribly long day. I am tired. I don’t have time for this…”
“He told me I will get the money this week. I promise I will pay you back as soon as his customers start paying.” Jimi said.
“I have heard you. I gave you two hundred thousand since over a month and I keep hearing stories. You told me you would return it in a week that you needed to make an investment. Do you think I don’t need money either? I work hard for this money, you know. For example I worked till 11 today. I am stressed out and I don’t need your extra problems, okay?” She blurted, even though she regretted what she said.
“You don’t have to rub it in my face that I am broke. I feel bad already that I am. I am not lazy. Things are just bad…”
She nodded. She had heard that a lot of times.
“I miss you. I love you, Tony. I really do.” He said.
“Love you too.”
“Can I pick you after work tomorrow? It’s Friday. We haven’t been on a date in a while. I miss you. We can chill at mine or stay at yours…whichever you want.” He said.
She missed him too. She really did.
“Okay.” She said and ended the call.
She saw a text message from Dan just as she ended Jimi’s. He wanted to know if she got home safe and if her stomach had stopped producing beats for Davido’s next single.
She laughed as she replied his text and hit the Send button.
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