Mr. Adeoye stared at us expecting Ben to say something. Ben blinked and clenched his fists together. I stared at Mr. Adeoye. “Ben told me that he has never met you before and that he doesn’t remember knowing you at all, but I am surprised to see you acting all lovey-dovey. Enlighten me, Ben!” he said, firmly.
Ben stuttered. “I am sorry…”
“I was the one who said hi to him.” I said, cutting in. “We just met, Sir.” I added quickly.
Mr. Adeoye stared at us. “Really?”
“Yes, sir. I met him here and he was putting me through a few things since we would be working together, and he looked to me like the young brain you referred to earlier.”
Mr. Adeoye nodded in agreement. “He is a very smart man, anyway, you guys appeared too comfortable for a first meeting.” He said, looking at Ben. “Kimberly, let’s leave for the office, we have to set you up quickly.”
I nodded. “Yes sir.” and followed him quickly.
“This would be your office.” He said, opening a door down the hallway. “It is very spacious and I bet you would have fun working here.” He said, closing the door after me. “I’ll have a roster sent to you for office hours and all, but bear in mind that we resume duties by 8am, and officially, work ends by 5pm. Overtime hours is subject to your duty.”
We ascended the stairs and left for the top floor. “As you know, we have a board room here. But we haven’t had a logical board meeting in almost five years, that’s how epileptic Millaroca has become, all our stakeholders are pulling out and intend to sell their shares.”
“Really? How do you intend to combat that?” I asked, wiping dust off the board room table.
He sighed. “I am hoping that with the injection of a young and brilliant mind like yours, we can make a rapid sale within the next one month, before this place collapses.” He started, as he helped himself to a chair. “The stakeholders have all decided to sell their shares, and that’s a 50% pull. If the next buyer wishes, he could turn Millaroca into a Casino. I heard that’s his wish, he said this place is a strategic location.”
I nodded. “Let’s say every staff here is temporary in that case…as the next one month is concerned.”
I shook my head. “That’s unfair.”
“Nothing is unfair in business, my dear. That’s why I need an epic story, I am willing to invest all I have in its production and see how much sale I can pull throughout the country and possibly continent.”
I took a deep breath. “It’s a lot of work here then.” He nodded in agreement. “I am ready for the task ahead, Sir.”
He smiled confidently. “Thank you, my dear. The proposed buyer for Millaroca is still anonymous and I am doing my best to find out the person or group, I want to save this place and give back to the society what they once loved in us.”
I nodded in agreement. “I am glad to be part of this short term project, even if it’s only for a month.”
He shrugged. “I hope we can restore it to what it used to be.”
“I know we can.”
He smiled. “Please resume duty tomorrow, I want a story that would shake Africa. Your office would be set by then, and I can’t boast about giving you the best salary ever for this one month affair, but I promise that it would be decent. Millaroca is banking on you.”
Ini flipped her hair backwards. “I just took a wild guess, Moron. I mean reports have it that you have been using that cream for ages what could have possible gone wrong with your cream?”
“I don’t know. I’ll leave you to answer that. You were the one who suggested that a cream change occurred, so what did you do to the cream, Ini Obong?”
Ini sighed. “Shola, I understand the fact that you are obsessed with my success and you see every statement or action of mine as an attack on you, but I can confidently tell you that I know ‘nada’ about your unfortunate accident, I mean, I have more things to do.”
“Like jumping in and out of Michael’s bed?”
Ini burst into a sarcastic laughter. She had swayed Shola off course. “You fool! Michael is too skinny for a man, he has lots of tats and I don’t like that in a man, and to cap it, he got beat by my Marcus, how more weak can a man be?”
“Oh really? Just wait till Michael files a complaint against that tout of yours.”
Ini smiled confidently. It looked as though Shola won’t be revisiting the issue on the cream. “I like your cousin, he looks young, but he’s a real hunk!”
“Which of my cousins has your slutty eyes laid itself on? Henry?”
Ini smiled. “That has to be the cutest of your ape generic group. Yes, it’s Henry I like.”
“How ever did you meet him?”
Ini shrugged. “It’s a small world, sweetheart; your cousin is totally into me. You should ask him, the last time we were together; he said he thinks I am the only Model in this country.”
“What did he say about me?”
Ini rolled her eyes. “He only said ‘Thank God she’s fine, I think she’s sh*t for a model’ Yes, that’s how he put it.”
“You Lie! Henry adores me!”
Ini smiled. “Shola Jones, you are too self-absorbed, I think you should concentrate on how you can get yourself out there again, because, this time, the spotlight is on me. Ciao!” she said and walked away, very relieved that she was able to put Shola away from the thought of the cream.
Ini bumped into Marcus as soon as she exited the clinic. “Marcus…………” she shouted with some excitement and kissed his forehead. “You are the real deal! The Amir Khan!!! You rock! Michael really looks awful.” She shouted dancing around him.
Marcus smiled. He felt proud inside. “I never meant to hit him.”
“Hmmm…. What did he do to provoke my sweet little Marcus?” she asked, pulling his cheek.
He sighed. “He spoke badly about a person I love.”
“Awww….that’s so sweet! So you went all knockers at him, right?” she asked. He shrugged. “I think that’s special. She must be really lucky, can’t believe you still regard Chioma that high.”
He grinned. “Who said anything about Chioma?” he asked, and started to walk away.
“Oh my…! Marcus, you found someone else!!!” she shouted and chased after him.
Wole punched the elevator buttons and allowed Tola in.
“I had a nice time.” She confessed as the door closed. He smiled. “Thank you, Wole.”
He stared at his shirt. “I did too, except for the fact that you smeared Ice cream on my shirt.”
She rolled her eyes. “But you retaliated. I also have it at the tip of my jacket.” She replied, smiling.
“Tip versus the whole shirt? Look at me, I look like some little kid.” He said, trying to tuck in his shirt.
She smiled. “But you are…” she said and stepped closer to him. He tried to avoid her stare. “Or not…?” she asked, starting to sound sensual as she bit her lip
He clenched his fists and stepped back. “We are in the elevator, Tola.” He struggled to say.
She burst into a mocking laugh. “I was just messing with you.” she said, laughing. “You are such a chicken!” she said as they got to her floor and the door opened.
Wole rubbed his hand against his trouser as he stepped out after her.
“Tola, I am sorry.” Tolu said standing up as soon as Tola and Wole approached.
Wole took a deep breath and turned his face away.
Kemi bowed apologetically. “I told him not to stay ma, but he refused.”
“Couldn’t you have called security?” Tola asked, staring at her. “I mean this is a top firm, no intruder should be allowed.”
Tolu went on his knees. “Tola, I am sorry, my love. I know I hurt you, I know I made you cry, but I acted stupid and I am sorry. I can’t live without you.”
Tola nodded. “Of course Tolu, you can’t live without me, because you are out of money and you are in need of some money.”
He shook his head and tears rolled out. “Take everything from me, life is not the same without you, I want you, I want your love, I want the old us. I want the Tola who never cared about road side cafeterias, I want the Tola who would run across the streets for Roasted plantain and corn, I want my life back.”
She took a deep breath and blinked. Wole stared at her as he felt her heart break. “Tolu…” she struggled to say.
He prostrated all out for her. “Just take me back. I’ll never hurt you again, I swear to love you with everything I have and I am. I am begging for one last chance, Tola Matthews. I want to be your man, I want to defend you.” he said. He spoke calmly and in a very remorseful fashion.
Wole tapped Kemi and walked away with her.
David held Oyinkan’s hand as they crossed the ever busy Broad road. She yanked her hand away as soon as they reached the other side. “Stop babying me!” she said, adjusting her dangling blouse. She had a knack for wearing tops that dropped slightly down her shoulder. David smiled as he looked down and ruffled her hair. “And stop that, David!” she said, stamping her foot.
He smiled widely revealing his perfect set of teeth. “I love hanging out with you.” he said, cynically. She hissed. “And I like the fact that you are short.”
“I am not short! I am close to 6ft.”
He scoffed. “5ft 5.”
“It’s close to 6.” She replied, and walked ahead. He followed her. “Stop embarrassing me.” she forced between her teeth.
He smiled and shoved her ahead. “I hate the fact that you have to be everywhere around me…why are you always showing your face in the office?” he asked, as they approached the office. “Thanks to you, I didn’t enjoy lunch.” He hissed.
“Really David? I didn’t ask you to order what I like.”
He shrugged and walked in. she chased after him. “Back to the initial matter we discussed over lunch, how do we make a way to see your Mom?”
He took a deep breath. “I have no idea, Oyinkan. Dad won’t let me, we have to come up with something, although I feel she won’t forgive me.”
“Nah…she will. She’s a mother, a mother’s heart always forgives.”
He hissed. “Where did you pick that stupid line from?”
She scoffed. “Dude, give me some credit, I am brilliant.”
“Hmmm…and you dropped out of college midway.”
She shrugged. “So? Does that make me any less smart than you? I mean, look at me, I have helped you in this company even without the degree.” She said as she opened the door to his office.
“And that’s why you lack the necessary manners to know that I should be the one to open the door.”
She rolled her eyes and swayed into the office.
“Oyinkan, taking David away from his office won’t help us in the business world.” Mr. Coker said, rising to his feet. David opened his mouth to speak but Mr. Coker quickly continued. “I have a spare key.”
David took a deep breath. “Dad, this is my office. Do I have to change the locks like I did in London?”
Mr. Coker balanced on his left leg with the aid of his cane. “You have become too casual, son. I don’t like that.” He started, ignoring David’s question. “Running across the streets for lunch, whose son are you?” he asked, raising his voice.
Oyinkan slid behind David. Whenever Mr. Coker got into ‘those moods’, the next person had better take heed!
“I apologize Father, but I think I should be able to decide what I want to eat and wherever I wish.”
Mr. Coker clenched his teeth furiously. “Stupid boy!” he turned swiftly to Oyinkan. “I suggest you visit your family more often, we have business to do here.”
“Dad! I won’t have you threaten Oyinkan. She has no fault here; you don’t want me to eat out, fine!”
His father nodded and smiled. “To the second matter, I suspended you. You have no right to be here.” David hissed. “Oh yes, you are suspended. Get out of here.”
“For how long?”
Mr. Coker shrugged. “Return next week Monday.”
David nodded. “By then My Mother…oh, I meant Elizabeth as you love to call her would have been dead, right?” he asked with a cynical grin. “It took you three days of suspending me to kill Bola.”
“Watch your tongue, young man. Bola died due to the hospital’s carelessness.”
David fumed. “I loved that woman!”
“Love? The only person you have a right to love is Kimberly, and that is if you think you can love her, else, no one else.” He shouted. “There would be no one else!!!” he shouted.
David shrugged. “Bola was a good girl, Dad. She didn’t deserve it.”
Mr. Coker hissed. “She was going to die anyways.”
“She had Cancer, she was fighting well. I was going to help her get through it.” David replied.
He nodded. “Of course! And throw away everything we have built!” he shouted. “Look here son, that lady died because they were careless in the hospital.”
David shook his head in disagreement. “Dad, you know that’s a lie. You cut the oxygen supply.”
“Think whatever you want, it wasn’t proved that I was responsible for her death 7 years ago, and it won’t be proved now.” He concluded and stamped his cane furiously. “Both of you get out here now!”
“How are you, Professor Mrs. Bankole?” I asked, taking my seat.
Mom smiled as she stretched her legs out on the chaise lounge and sipped her fruit juice. “You can still call me ‘Mom’ you know.” She said with a weary smile. Her smile had faded in reality; I wondered how she looked stunning on Magazine covers with Dad. They both wore the smile that made the whole world marvel and say… ‘Aren’t they the perfect parents?’
I smiled back. “How are you, Mom?”
She stretched out her hand and hugged me dearly. “Your mother is hanging on fine.”
We stared at ourselves and chorused with mixed feeling of laughter and tears. “Until her dying day.” I stared at her as tears rolled down her weary eyes. I wiped it off with my finger and she rubbed mine off too. Mom had cultivated the habit of saying… ‘Your mother is hanging on fine until her dying day’ whenever I enquired about her welfare.
“Kimberly…” she started. Her voice trembled. Her hand was equally trembling as she ran it through my face. “My baby, I am sorry.” She said. I smiled as tears rolled down my eyes. “I wish I was as tough as you are, I would have fought for a better life.”
I nodded as I stared at her. “Mom, you are stronger than you know. You’ve worn a smile that has made people believe in a better life.”
“I have lied to people, Kim. I am not who they think I am. Look at me, I only have a Professor’s tag, I am worse than a stark illiterate.” She blurted.
I hugged her. “It’s okay Mom. Don’t beat yourself, you’ll fight back. I know you will, very soon.”
She took a deep breath and stared at her wristband. “It would soon pass.” She read with a smile. I nodded and nudged her in the waist. She smiled. I then tickled her so hard till she went for the laugh and then the awkward fart and then the silence followed and we laughed again. “It’s been a while since I laughed with a loved one.”
“I am always here.” I replied. She kissed my forehead. “Mom, I bring you good news.”
Her face lit up with excitement. “Okay, are you in love?” I wore a grimace. “Okay, sorry love. I hope I didn’t jinx your news.” I flashed my teeth at her and she closed her eyes awaiting the news.
“I AM PREGNANT!” She widened her eyes in shock. They bulged so large that I thought they won’t shut so I immediately quit the drama. “Just Joking Mom.” I squealed and laughed so hard. Her tensed shoulders dropped. “I got a job.”
She smiled and hugged me tight. “That’s my go-getter!” she said and kissed my forehead. “So, where’s the new place.”
“Millaroca.” I said, excitedly.
Her smile faded slightly. “Adeoye’s Magazine, right?”
I stared at her. “Erm…Yes…Is there a problem?”
She rolled her eyes and sipped her drink. “I don’t think there is, but isn’t that place pretty finished? I mean it’s been long since any civilized person paid much attention to their Mag.”
“But Mom, you used to love it.” I teased.
She nodded. “Until I started reading about chastity week in-week out.”
“MOM! What are you preaching to me?!” I asked, laughing.
She snapped. “Quit the sarcasm, the place is so out of it…but I believe in you.” she said, with a smile.
“Thank you Mom.”
The sound of corporate shoes approached. I turned to see Dad. “Good evening, Dad.” I greeted.
“How are you?” he asked.
Mom and I stole a quick glance at ourselves and replied at once. “Fine.” Mom knew better than to expect another ‘How are you, dear?’ “Why are you here, Kim? Do you need Daddy’s great help now?”
I smiled with so much pride. “I came to tell ‘daddy’ that I now have a job.”
He took a deep breath. “Really? Who employed you?”
He nodded with a smile. “Good for you.”
I smiled back. “Thank you, sir.” I replied. He nodded and walked away.
“Do you want a driver to drop you?” Mom asked.
I shook my head in disagreement. “I’ll take a walk after dinner.”
Wole leaned against Tola’s door. “Hey.” He called softly.
She rose her head and smiled. “Hi…”
He took a deep breath and walked in, closing the door gently. “So how are you?”
“I am okay.” She replied, firmly glued to her laptop.
He cleared his throat slightly. “And how are things with your boyfriend?”
She stared at him and rolled her eyes. “Tolu is fine.”
He nodded. “Of course…” he muttered underneath his breath. He stared at her again as she had returned her gaze to the laptop. “Did you guys…erm…did you guys get back together?”
She rolled her eyes and smiled. “We never broke up.”
Wole swallowed heavily and let out some air from his mouth. “Okay.” He said, standing up. “Erm…it’s late, I think I should be going home.” He said and clenched his fists. “Good night Tola.”
“Good night, Wole.”
He smiled and approached the door. “Tola, you need a ride?” he asked, wiping some perspiration from his forehead.
“I have a car, Wole.”
He nodded in agreement. “Erm…yah….I know.” He stuttered.
Tola stood up and walked over to him. “Wole, I am fine.” She said, staring at him.
She smiled and walked round him. “But clearly, you are not fine. And I think you should take a seat.” She said gesturing to a chair.
He nodded. “Of course…” he said.
Tola poured him a glass of juice. He collected it and sipped. “Wole, I understand that you are concerned about me.”
“Hey…” he said, cutting in. “I love you, Tola.” He said, reassuringly with a smile.
She smiled back. “Thank you.”
He drank up. “Tola, I don’t know about your heart and I can’t judge your heart for its feelings, but I can tell you about my feelings, and how my heart feels and clearly I don’t know how long my heart can beat for you, but as long as it beats for you, I’ll always be there.” He said, and kissed her forehead.
She closed her eyes and held his shirt. “Don’t wait for me, Wole.”
He freed himself from her grip gently. “I’ll wait.” He said and walked out.
The breeze blew gently and the birds chirped delightfully as the evening fell. I swayed from left to right as I enjoyed the delightful evening, perfect condition to walk. I could have taken a bus home but I knew several routes to walk home and even though it might take me an enduring 30 minutes trek, I won’t pass on the beautiful evening.
I plugged my I-pod into my ear and let Dido’s music stream through my head and I nodded to her hit track ‘Life for rent’… “Always thought that I would love to live by the sea…” I sang out as I walked the street…
“I have no idea what’s happening to that dream…” a voice replied.
Urgh!!! I hate it when people join me when I am singing except if we had it planned. I turned round to see my ‘duet partner’. Oh well…it is a woman
She laughed. “I am sorry, I think I even missed that line…I think it’s ‘to travel the world…blah blah blah…” she said, laughing. “I love Dido…just like my soldier.”
Okay… this is getting freaky… I mean, who stops you in the middle of nowhere and starts to talk about music with you. I smiled and turned to walk on.
“Hey!” she called, stopping me in my tracks. “Don’t run away so fast.”
I stared at her from head to toe. She was wearing a grey mackintosh and a black jean with black sneakers. I reached into my wallet and fetched a thousand naira; she looked like she needed help. “Please take this.”
She laughed hysterically. “Do I need money?!”
I nodded in agreement. “I think so…”
She snarled. “Nah…I have never needed money sweetheart, the only thing I have ever been in need of is my soldier.”
“Your soldier?” I asked, returning my money into the wallet.
She nodded and sat on the ‘love seat’ nearest to us. “Please join me…” she said
I took a deep breath as I took the first step forward. ‘Could she be a killer?’ There was no one to call for help….Or is she a witch?!’ ‘Enough of the weird feelings!’ I said in my heart and braved up, taking my seat beside her.
She reached for a cigarette and a lighter from her jacket. “Smoke?” I shook my head in disagreement. “Okay, sweetheart. Erm…about my soldier…” she started.
I nodded as I listened to her…an idea struck me that I might just be getting an inspiration for a new story. “Yes, your soldier…”
She nodded as she continued. “I have been looking for him for over 30 years now…” I stared at her as she continued. “He said to me, ‘My little angel, I’ll be back to marry you.’ but he never came back.” She paused.
I stared at her as she smiled looking ahead. “I love hiding in this street because it reminds me of him…” she continued. “You see these sunflowers…” she said, looking ahead. I stared at the flowers dancing in their buds making show stopping statements of beauty and admiration. I nodded in agreement. “He loved them.” She said with a huge smile. “But he never came back for them, or me…” she said, as a tear rolled down her eyes.
Her words sent shudders down my spine and I felt my heart break for a woman’s hurt. I wiped the tear drop off her face. “It’s okay.”
“Yes, it is…but I got my Soldier’s villain, but I still want my soldier, I am waiting for him.”
I nodded and drew closer to her. I hugged her. “You’ll be fine… I promise…”
“Where have you been?!”
I turned to see an elderly woman approaching us. She stared at my ‘duet partner’ and seized her hand. “We have been looking all over for you, you shouldn’t wander off without permission.”
She laughed. “It depressing there…and I am already depressed. We are a bad combination.”
“We’ll plant more sunflowers at home. Let’s go.” She said.
My duet partner stood up and curtsied in a French manner. “Thank you…” she said, smiling at me.
I smiled back. “What’s your name, ma’am?”
“Elizabeth…” she said.
I smiled. “Nice to meet you, Mrs. Elizabeth.”
She paused and laughed. “Just call me Liz.”