Aisha waited anxiously for twelve midnight with her glass of champagne in one hand and her smart phone in the other. If there was anything she hated more than waiting, it had to be waiting. She looked through the room as it buzzed with excitement but with nothing really to excite her. To her, the others were a bunch of playful lot who couldn’t wait for the next opportunity to have a party and tonight, New Year’s Eve, had provided them with that avenue.
She stood in her red gown isolated in a corner of the room, but not totally isolated. She still drew the attention of everyone in the room as they turned heads in her direction flashing faint smiles at her, which of course were reciprocated with a firm stare when she noticed, if she noticed.
The others couldn’t wait for the countdown to New Year that they had started counting from hundred. ‘Who does a countdown from hundred to the New Year?’ Aisha thought aloud as she stared at them disdainfully. She could see Alhaji’s eyes all over her from a distance but she simply looked away. She wasn’t ready for his lengthy sermons on how a ‘sexually active female should learn to mingle with the male species’. Whenever he spoke like that she almost thought he was no longer her father but a farmer talking to his animals in the farm.
He beckoned to her as he stood with his friend in the crowd. She shook her head and turned away. At least there was some serenity on the roof top, she had planned to go there once the fireworks went out at midnight and the rest would be deep into the party.
“Nine…Eight…Seven…” The room echoed as the clock ticked. For the first time, Aisha turned at the giant clock and watched the second hand tick. “Three…two…HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!!!!” They all shouted and hugged one another. Aisha flashed a smile at her father and walked over to him. “Happy New Year, Dad. Greater heights this year.” She said as they clinked glasses.
“Happy new year, my princess.” He replied and kissed her forehead. “It’s another year and I don’t want this year to go-”
“-without you bringing him home.” She said completing his throttle. “Dad, try to change the words next year, I am getting too used to them, and moreover they sound really tacky.” She added as she sipped her drink.
He nodded in agreement as he surveyed the room. “I know they sound tacky but, can I help it? You are my only child.” He said, turning his head over his neck.
“Who are you looking for, Dad?” she asked as she noticed the divided attention between her father’s speech and an unending search around the big hall.
He smiled victoriously at her. “Wait for it.” Aisha clenched her teeth as she saw Hakeem approach from a distance. “Hakeem is here to celebrate the New Year with us.” Her Father announced.
“He could have at least worn a tux.” Aisha said as Hakeem approached them in his kaftan apparel. “Dude just has the worst dress sense.”
Hakeem bowed before Alhaji as he got to them. “Happy New Year, Sir.”
Alhaji Ibrahim nodded. “Happy New Year, Hakeem. How is Father?”
“He just returned from Dubai last night and he sends his apologies for not being able to make it here.” He replied and stretched out an envelope to Alhaji Ibrahim. “He also sends this.”
Aisha rolled her eyes as her Dad tucked the envelope into his pocket. “I’ll call him, please excuse me, I’ll leave you two young ones alone.” He said, grinning mischievously in her direction and then he walked away.
Hakeem reached for Aisha’s hand and she yanked it away aggressively. “Damn, Hakeem. You are plain stupid. When did we get so comfy?” she yapped at him.
He swallowed as people started to stare at them and murmur too. “You have a way of humiliating me, don’t you?” he asked.
“And you have a way of maintaining a high level of stupidity, don’t you?” she asked back.
He nodded. “For you, I’ll be a fool.”
“For me? Or what you think you can get from me?” she asked.
He shrugged. “Aisha, can we go outside?”
“Never, Hakeem. You are not having me alone for five seconds.” She replied and walked away. “Where’s that idiot, Moira? She must be partying herself away” She thought as she walked across the pulsing room.
Hakeem watched her leave and turned in her father’s direction.
Somewhere in Ebute-Metta, the New Year vibe was a lot different from the uptown ones. Honestly, you might want to be Craig and the guys rather than spend your New Year with a bunch of office guys in a Porsche hall.
Craig flicked the ‘banger’ in his hand at a group of ladies and then retreated to his friends. “How about that for tackling back?” he shouted as the cracks went off.
The ladies were in no mood to surrender to Craig as they prepared for a re-launch in the final battle of the Ultimate street fights. Craig watched keenly as the ladies prepared their arsenals and threw the crackers back at him and his pals. This time, the bangers came in multitude. The ladies had devised an entirely different strategy and decided to throw their ‘bangers’ at once. Craig and the guys scampered, thus rendering them the losers of the contest.
“Now that’s what we call tackling back!” The ladies shouted back.
Craig fumed as he had lost to the ladies. Bolu jabbed him from the back. “This is why I hate you. How could you just throw one at them?” he asked angrily.
“They are ladies and I didn’t think they would return it in trillions.”
Bolu hissed dryly. “There you have it; we are losers again this year. All thanks to you.”
“He is never the loser.” Daniel chipped in as the ladies approached them.
“Hi Craig, don’t you want to have a taste of winning?” Vicky asked.
Daniel’s heart burned as he had always admired Vicky. No. He admires and wants every lady, but they end up wanting Craig for the most obvious reasons. Craig was like a gold fish in their ocean. He had the stunning looks, athletic physique and charisma. He isn’t your regular street guy by the books, but for reasons that life provided he found himself there and he did do well in the streets.
“Why not? For you, I’d rather be a loser.” Craig replied and walked off with Vicky and the other girls.
One more thing, Craig is a charmer. He knew his way around women and how to get to them. Bolu smiled at Daniel. “Hard luck, bro. Better luck next time.”
“That bastard knows I like Vicky. Why is he always doing this to me?” Daniel asked.
Bolu shrugged with a smile. “Vicky went to him.”
“He could have turned her down, but he didn’t. He is doing that to spite me…again.” Daniel complained bitterly.
Bolu nodded. “Sorry bro, don’t let this ruin the New Year, let’s go and join them in the bar.”
“Were we invited?”
Bolu swallowed as his excitement went down. “Dude, it doesn’t matter, are they going to kick us out of the bar?”
“I can’t watch them kissing.”
“So, where do we go to?”
Daniel looked around. “We can get some drinks and talk about our plans for the New Year here.”
“Here? Out in the cold?” Bolu retorted.
“Yes, that’s why we are getting drinks. You won’t feel the effect. Trust me.”
Aisha sipped her drink slowly as she forwarded a mail to a client. She then picked up the land phone and dialled. “Have you received the mail?” She paused for a while to get a response after which she smiled. “I know how much people are dying to ferry their stuff on my gambit, but, you have to pay to do that, and I won’t even be lenient for old ties sake.” She replied.
She cringed as the noise from the hall went up and disturbed her conversation. “Alright…Alright, in the spirit of the New Year, I take a thousand dollars off it. That’s the best you are getting.”
The door opened and a tipsy Moira walked in. Aisha shook her head and rounded off her call. “Pay your money before I change my mind. Happy New Year.” She replied and hung up.
“What are you doing here?” Moira asked with a bottle in her hand.
Aisha dragged the bottle from her and hurled it in the bin. “Classy ladies don’t get drunk. And as you can see, I am working.”
“In case you haven’t noticed, Aisha, there is a party going on around you.” Moira said as she sat on the desk and dropped her legs on Aisha’s laps.
Aisha eyeballed her and threw off her legs. “This is what happens when you drink irresponsibly. I’ll make you some coffee.” She said and walked over to her mixer.
Moira continued sloppily. “Aisha, this is New Year’s party. You should get a break from work and catch up with your generation. Times-a-passin” she added.
“I am in touch with my generation.” Aisha replied as she handed Moira a cup of coffee. “Drink this.”
Moira took a sip and spilled the rest. “Eeww!!! There’s no sugar.”
“What’s ‘Eewwish’ about coffee without sugar.” Aisha asked feeling irritated at the mess Moira had made on her desk. She grabbed a cloth and started to clean it up.
Moira smiled. “You could be a darling sometimes.” She said as Aisha wiped the spill on her dress.
Aisha pulled a grimace and threw the cloth in Moira’s face. “Do it yourself.”
“I take back the compliment. You are a monster.” Moira said as she threw the cloth on the desk. “I overhead Hakeem reporting you to Alhaji.”
Aisha nodded. “Good. Now I know where his balls are.”
“You’ve seen his balls?” Moira asked with some shock.
Aisha scoffed. “Are you this dumb, Moira or you are only dumb when drunk?”
“I am not drunk, I heard you say his balls clearly and if you think I didn’t hear you right, we can play it over again. Now, say what you said. Exact terms.”
Aisha shook her head and sank into a seat. “What did Hakeem tell father?”
“That you were so rude to him and blah blah…blah” she replied yawning.
“Can you try to close your mouth next time when you yawn?” Aisha said.
Moira nodded and yawned again. “Like when?!”
“You know my buddy likes you?” Craig whispered into Vicky ears.
She chuckled softly as though he had said something more romantic to her.
Daniel boiled from a distance as he saw this. “I knew it was a bad idea to have come here.” Bolu said to him.
“I don’t know why I said we should still come here, but, all I know is there is going to be a beat down here.” Daniel said.
Bolu took his hand. “Let’s go man, it’s not worth it.”
“She is worth it.” Daniel replied as he strode across over to Craig’s table with Bolu chasing behind. “Why are you not my friend, Craig?” Daniel shouted.
Craig smiled. His smile did upset Daniel as it made Craig look more attractive to the females on the table as they blushed carelessly. Craig cleared his throat. “Why so angry?”
“This is not a good idea, Daniel. Let’s go.” Bolu whispered into Daniel’s ear.
Craig stared at Vicky. “I am sorry, he is not usually like this, he has had too many to drink.” He said.
Vicky nodded and stared at Daniel. “Hi Daniel.” She said waving at him.
Daniel swallowed as he stared at Bolu and then back at her. “Hi.”
Craig excused himself and walked out of the room with Bolu following. “What did you do in there?” Bolu asked.
“Look Man, the guy is crazy about her. All I did was talk to her on his behalf.” He replied.
Bolu smiled. “Oh…Well, I… I never…”
“Of course you never knew. You guys never know anything, but are so quick to bring your gloves at me.”
Bolu took a deep breath. “You can’t blame him, you are the one everyone likes. It’s hard to live in your shadow and it becomes a constant pain, if you know what I mean.”
“You guys have a lot of work to do on your self-confidence. It’s a new year! Grow out of it.” He replied and walked away into the chilly night.
Aisha walked into the hall with her briefcase in her hand. The hall sparkled as though no office party had been held there the night before. She smiled satisfactorily and walked out bumping into Moira who was approaching from the elevator.
“Aisha, who comes to work on the second day in January?” she asked, looking unsettled.
Aisha smiled. “We have been doing this for the past five years since I took over, I don’t why you are asking me this today.” She replied walking away.
Moira stopped her. “I don’t feel good today.”
“You could have called in sick.”
Moira took a deep breath. “Like you take people serious when they call in sick?”
“You are right. Why would I take anyone that has had too many to drink serious? If I take that from you, the other members of staff would do the same thing. You all except one, and that is me, were virtually stoned.” She replied as she pushed her office door open. “Good morning, Moira. Where did you leave your manners?”
Moira rolled her eyes and took her seat. Aisha and Moira had been best friends since they were kids; they did everything together, went to the same schools and graduated together. Aisha had always been exceptional-from her curves and edges to perfections, academic prowess, adroit negotiation skills that put her ahead of everyone in the business field. Moira loved her friend for everything except one. Aisha was not willing to stoop for anyone, and most especially, a man.
“Aisha, when are you going on a date with Hakeem?” Moira asked.
Aisha stared at her. “Moira? Hakeem? What are you saying?”
“I just feel you should give him a chance, he really likes you.” Moira replied sounding serious.
Aisha shook her head sadly. “Your taste amazes me. Hakeem is not in my class.”
“Really? Then who is? You are the only one in your class; in fact, I think you are the whole school!” Moira cut in sounding a bit offended.
Aisha took a deep breath. “Moira, go to your office.”
“It bothers me that you have decided to embrace the single life; you have never been in a relationship with anyone. You ruined what you could have had with…erm…what’s the name of that American boy? Trent! You won’t let him breathe all through college and now you have Hakeem all over you, why are you so hard on him?”
Aisha folded her hand. “Do you know how much we have lost since you started talking about this nonsense? We have lost ten fruitful minutes that could have been channelled into sealing deals and raking in money. Moira, I need you to go to your office!”
“I don’t even know why Alhaji put you in charge of this place.” Moira replied.
Aisha smiled. “Since I took over this place in the last five years, I have raked in more profits than all the last fifteen MD’s. I am on Forbes’ list as the most successful young African person. Why won’t my father want me here? He is the envy of all his competitors! The only time he comes here is when there is a party or shareholder meeting. He trusts me, I am sailing this ship perfectly, Moira. Does that answer why he put me in charge?”
“You need to get married.” Moira replied.
Aisha smiled. “Love is for the weak.”
Aisha nodded. “Yes. Now, if you don’t mind, some of us have work to do.”
Moira nodded in agreement. “I hope you marry this work.”
“I am married to it.”
“You know the best part of this set of chairs is that they give you a manly feel.” Craig started. “There is something special about a chaise lounge, you just have to slide down and enjoy the comfort it provides.”
“So, when my husband gets the entire manly feel, what do I get out of it?” A customer enquired.
Craig smiled. “Do you see this smile, it is satisfaction. When your husband is happy, you are happy. Moreover, he can enjoy the chair after a long hard day’s work; you can enjoy it all day.”
“Are you insinuating that I am a full housewife?” she asked.
He shrugged with a smile. “Not necessarily, but this is ten am on a Monday morning and you are here, looking this fresh and unstressed, it’s obvious you have not been in the labour market.”
The woman blushed faintly. “Are you single, honey?” she asked.
He smiled. “Yes I am.”
“I…I wish you the best. I’ll have the chairs.” She said and walked away.
Craig turned with a grin in Bolu and Daniel’s direction. The Shop owner walked out of his office into the open. “Did you sell those chairs?” he asked. Craig nodded confidently. “Good. Send the proceeds to my office.”
“Yes sir.” Craig replied as his boss walked away. Bolu and Daniel joined him. “How much is the commission?”
Craig smiled. “I sold it ten thousand higher, after that self-profit, my commission will come from him.”
“You are such a bad guy.” Bolu said.
Craig nodded. “I know. EBAY has got nothing on me; I am the king of the market.”
“Is that a line you learnt yesterday?” Daniel asked trying to get into the discussion.
Craig smiled. “A thank you is fine. You got her number, right?”
Daniel took a deep breath. “She told me that she knows what you were trying to do for me, but she rather be with you.”
Craig laughed. “Your sense of humour has improved. I am proud of you. I can feel the New Year blooming at me.”
“He is serious.” Bolu said. “She was serious.”
Craig stared at them. “Errr…I…I had no idea, but, I…I don’t want her. Seriously.”
“I know, but, she doesn’t know that.” Daniel replied. “She likes you.”
Craig shook his head sadly. “What do you want me to do?”
“Help tell her that you are not interested in her.”
Aisha laid back into her seat and watched the profits rise in her favour on her Forex trading. She laughed as it swayed positively and she immediately closed up to avoid any loss. “Good money for me again.” She said aloud.
There was a knock and her secretary walked in. “Good morning ma.”
“Morning, what can I do for you?” she asked.
“The Chairman sent for you.”
Aisha’s eyes popped. “Chairman? What is Alhaji doing here?” she asked expressing concern at her father’s presence which was unexpected. “I hope this is not Hakeem’s work.” She mumbled as she grabbed her digital tablet. “Get all the documents regarding our last trades ready and bring them to us.” She said and walked out briskly.
The journey to her father’s office was not meant to be a long walk but Aisha decided to stop at Moira’s office. “Moira, my Dad is here.” She announced.
“That’s…strange.” Moira replied as she closed her laptop. “What if this is the Hakeem effect?”
Aisha clenched her teeth. “I’ll kill that guy.” She replied. “I am going there now, want to come?”
Moira grinned. “You came to ask for my company. Admit it.”
Aisha rolled her eyes. “This is not the time, Moira. Are you coming or not?”
“Of course I am. I won’t miss the chance to watch your Dad scold you because of Hakeem. Let’s go, baby.” Moira said, smacking Aisha’s backside.
Aisha shot at Moira. “Moira?”
“Don’t be a killjoy. Let’s go!” Moira said, hopping out.
Aisha opened the door to her father’s office with a smile that she had planned to fade if she saw Hakeem inside. However, no Hakeem. Wider smiles. “Good morning, sir.” She said.
Alhaji Ibrahim stared at her. “How are you?”
“Fine, Sir.” She replied.
He turned in Moira’s direction. “How are you, Moira?”
“As good as always.” She replied.
“Why can’t you pour some of the joy you feel on Aisha?” he asked.
Aisha looked stunned. “What does that mean, Father?”
He took a deep breath. “Aisha, we have a very serious matter to discuss. Do you mind if Moira stayed?”
“Moira can stay and you know it, Dad.” Aisha replied.
Alhaji Ibrahim took a deep breath. “Ms Aisha Bello, you are fired from here.”