//Here Comes Idriss//
Her diary was as packed as those days when she combined work, volunteering and her post graduate degree. She doodled at the bottom of the page as her computer signalled the receipt of another email. Five hours sleep was proving not to be enough. Her body begged for a break; one that she didn’t have time for.
That was why she didn’t spot the man in the chambray polo shirt until Kaz, her colleague tapped her on the shoulder. It wasn’t unusual for Kaz to spot good looking men. She was famous for spotting them in unexpected places. On farms whilst driving in the countryside, on hospital wards and even in front of prison vans.
The man was looking through their display glass window, at the for-sale and for-let adverts that James, their part-time sales and lettings negotiator updated last Friday.
Although, Anu couldn’t place it, something about the lofty man at the window seemed oddly familiar. As she exited her Microsoft Office Excel document, she studied the man. With his Ralph Lauren jeans, gold watch and the Hybrid white car parked on the street, it was more than obvious that he was Nigerian.
“Nigerian men have this natural swag and aura.” Kaz had said once. Now her colleague was spilling tea on Anu’s table as she stared mouth wide open at the good-looking man outside.
“Watch it Kaz.” Anu tapped her table, knowing it would take God’s divine intervention to get her colleague to concentrate on work again. As if they were not busy enough.
The man met Anu’s gaze. He had caught them staring. Anu turned her attention back to Kaz who was now cleaning her table with a piece of kitchen roll, she’d materialised from somewhere, although, her eyes were still very much fixed on the man outside. With cheeks flushed, Kaz caught the picture of a young girl in a sweet shop.
“Please, tell me that Hawt Chocolate out there is the administrator that the agency has blessed us with?”
Anu glared at her colleague. The recruitment agency had promised to send her an experienced administrator before midday to cover for Tekky who had gone into early labour on Saturday.
The man outside could not possibly be her temp. For one, he wasn’t dressed appropriately for the role. Secondly, she hadn’t seen very many male administrators in her time.
How the hell would she get Kaz to concentrate with him around for weeks?
“Kaz, you are supposed to be at Ramsay Close, like right now.” Anu said, having decided to get Kaz out of the way.
“Do I have to go?”
The man was pushing the door open. Anu noticed her phone—which was next to her diary— vibrating at the same time. She picked it up, raising a finger up to acknowledge the man’s greeting.
“Hey, I’m Idriss. You must be…” His voice didn’t disappoint. It fell into the same category that Kaz would describe belonged to a god.
“Hold on please,” She said to her caller before diverting her complete attention back to Kaz’s prey.
“Kaz will show you round quickly. I’m guessing you are my new temp. I have to get this. Back in a minute.”
With that, she escaped into their inner office. Although, she hurried with Elicia, her friend, on the phone, asking how she was before requesting they speak later on in the evening and was back in the main office in a few minutes, still the man had an aloof expression on his face when she re-emerged.
What is it with good looking men and pride?
Kaz was fussing over him, what more did he want? She’d managed to make him a steaming cup of tea in minutes. A record for her.
Kaz, known for her laziness, was yet to perfect even the simple task of joggling making tea and toast. The last time Tekky asked her to toast some crumpets; the toaster had erupted in smoke triggering off the fire alarm. The different staff teams in the building had to stand outside in the drizzling rain to wait for the fire engine. All because of crumpets and tea!
“You can go for your meeting, Kaz.” Anu piped. “I will settle our new Tekky in.”
She noticed the icy look the woman shot in her direction before straightening up very slowly. Her heels were extra loud as she headed to her desk to retrieve her bag. On the way out, she pouted, standing so erect, that her black lacy bra showed against her cream blouse.
“See you later, Idriss darling.”
Anu saw a beam light up his eyes when he said, “see you.” She smiled too until those dazzling dark-brown eyes of his turned themselves back on her. She swept hair away from her face, blaming it on his intense gaze. Troubled, because this wasn’t her. She wasn’t the type whose head turned easily because of a man.
She was no prude. Not that you could call her very experienced either because only one man had ever gotten anywhere with her. And it had taken years of friendship before Bradley got that nonsexual kiss that led them to redefine their relationship.
“Your new Tekky?” He wasn’t radiating that beam anymore. His brows were arched, his face wore a questioning frown – making her feel as if she was the one about to start temping with him.
“I’m listening.” He said, resting his back on the adjustable seat that they had purchased when Tekky’s bump grew too big for the reception desk chair. His eyes held a twinkle in them that even his partial frown couldn’t hide.
“Tekky is the name of our administrator.” She fought the urge to tell him Tekky’s name was Teniola. The girl had shortened her name the same way many of Anu’s friends shortened or westernised their names. Agunderubaye had become Aggy. Bose became Bee and Chioma Chi. Anu simply refused to become Ann when Kaz tried hammering her name in. Her explanations had failed to convince Kaz who was christened Caroline Bernice Baker by her East Midland parents.
He glared at her, the way one would a silly child. She wasn’t the type to drift away from her line of thought. Something about him had caused this. She moved closer to the desk, adopting her manageress posture. The sort that always came into use when chiding Kaz for coming in late on Mondays after a busy weekend and for James their part time agent who thought nothing of springing that working from home phrase on her anytime he fancied a lazy-duvet-day.
“You are covering for Tekky because she is on maternity leave. The trial period is a week because I value hard work…”
“I’m sure you do.”
“I’m willing to extend your contract if you pull your weight.”
The recruitment agency had never let her down before now. Sending her professional, experienced individuals from their crop of staff.
Was Jane, the agency’s team leader using just her eyes when she employed this man?
“I don’t know if Jane explained how busy I and my staff are?” She managed whilst trying to decide if to send him home or let him stay.
“I’m Idriss Akinwale.” His face had curved into a smile again.
“Yeah, I heard you the first time… All I need to know is if you can do the job. I don’t tolerate slackers.”
“Your father calls you Aisha. Would you mind if I call you Aisha too?”
She stopped talking as realisation dawned. It hit her hard across the face like an unexpected slap. This was the man her father told her about.
No. This is not happening. Anu gasped. She searched for words to convey her apology. Anything. Something that would cover her embarrassment at least. Nothing came.
“I’m not your new temp,” he chuckled.
“I’m so sorry…”
“I’m your father’s new business partner.”
Her father had referred to him as Mr Akinwale. She had expected a lumpy, balding man with a puffed-up stomach. Not a tall, coffee-skinned man who was neither slim nor large. At first she had fought against the idea of getting someone else involved in the business but her father’s arguments of needing more time off because of his health persuaded her. The sorry state of their finances was another concern too.
“I’m happy I’m finally meeting the Aisha I have heard so much about.” He stood up and moved close to her, taking her right hand in his bigger one.
Studying his face quickly before her confidence dissipated – the high cheekbones, strong jawline and morning stubble – she decided he could easily pass for handsome. Not the sort of attractiveness most would dub metro sexual these days. It was the sort that thrilled her: ruggedness with a subtle hint of gentlemanliness.
From the way he carried himself, she guessed he knew what effect he had on women. His arrogance despite being coated in politeness was acutely evident. That was his only flaw.
Anu’s heart hopped quicker than it had ever done in her life as he held on to her hand. His skin felt soft against hers and his aftershave smelt like one of those high-quality bottles they sell in designer stores. He towered above her, still he held her gaze in his as if letting go wasn’t an option.
She withdrew her hand the second the opportunity to flee from him presented itself, when a Toyoto parked outside of the estate agent office.
He followed the direction of her gaze. “You have an appointment?”
“Yes. I have to go.”
“I came straight from the gym. I have a few meetings today but I can meet you here…around 6.30. I always observe my last Namaaz. You can talk me through your business plan then.”
What sort of person bought into a business without bothering to do their research? She had suspected something wasn’t right the day her father mentioned Mr Akinwale like if he was simply telling her what he had for breakfast.
Anu arched her neck towards her bag on her desk, hoping he would get the message.
“There is that new Italian place in Manchester. We can go there. I will pick you up from here.”
“No, thanks.” She held her neck straight. “I prefer to talk work at work, Mr Akinwale.” She had seen too many men like him in her field. Men that uncrossed more legs than they counted money.
“You can call me Idriss. I will call you Aisha. See you here then.” He grinned as he turned and headed for the door.
Anu could smell the sickly frying tang coming from her mother’s kitchen. The scent had permeated itself into the wallpapers her mother had chosen last year. She let herself in and headed upstairs to her mother’s room ignoring the terrible singing of her father’s mistress.
She set about collecting the crucifix, her mother’s King James, porcelain saints and the Virgin Mary figurine in the room into a travel bag she brought along. The jewellery box had varnished.
Her eyes filled up. Chiding herself, she pulled the bag closer and emptied her mother’s box of inexpensive bangles in it. It happened only seven weeks ago. The accident that turned her into an orphan – because the third week had not ended before she walked in on her father and Aunty Yele, her mother’s friend. The situation was bad enough because Aunty Yele had always been her confidante; the one she ran to when her mother and her had rows. A situation further complicated by Aunty Yele being Elicia’s mother. Elicia and her had been friends longer than their mothers had been friends. Despite the years between them, Elicia and her had never had a row. The girl was there for her too when her mother died.
Anu turned around to find her father in the doorway. He was the only person that called her Aisha as if he didn’t know that she had spent almost every Sunday in church when her mother was alive.
“What are you doing here?” He looked like he hadn’t slept for days. “The cleaner told me you came here on Saturday.”
Anu straightened. “So?”
“I’m your father.” He roared, belting his bath robe tighter over his pyjamas. “No matter what I have done, you have no right to move out and start living in your own flat and then talk back…”
“This is not my home anymore.”
“So, you want to start playing happy family with that useless oyinbo. You want to start committing haram when I’m still alive?”
Anu wanted to leave but she knew it was safer to stand in her corner. She had seen him slap her mother, once. A slap that stayed in her memory, reminding her that her loving father was capable of violence.
“This is what I get, abi?” The skin of Alhaji’s face stretched thinly over his light complexioned face. “This is my reward for choosing your mother and you over Yele and Elicia.”
The bag suddenly felt heavier. The tiredness that made her want to rest on her mother’s bed came back with vengeance. “I don’t understand.”
“Use your head.” Alhaji frowned. “Elicia is your sister.”