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She found her way into the company’s crowded car park. There were a lot of cars which signified that many of the staff were still in the building.
It was a Friday, several offices often close late. She was grateful that her boss didn’t demand extra working hours from them, as long as they completed their weekly assignments. Any delay was usually countered by several sleepless nights.
She sighted her car and quickened her steps. The evening breeze soothed her achy bones. She hoped to have a restful weekend. It had been a stressful week. She might end up staying indoors or probably drive to the beach and watch a movie or two at the Galleria. She wasn’t sure what she would do, but she hoped to relax and recuperate. She needed enough strength and a stable mind to face the upcoming week.
The sound of her name interrupted her line of thoughts.
“Promise please wait.”
She halted and looked back. Who was that? A puzzled look took over her face when she saw Oyetunde walking towards her.
“I didn’t know when you left the office,” he sounded breathless.
“I didn’t know you wanted to see me,” she waited for him to reach her. She hoped it wasn’t office matters. She was done for the day. All she needed was a cold bath, good food and several hours of sleep.
He smiled and stood a few feet away from her.
“Em… I have em… ” Where was he going to start from? He had rehearsed what he wanted to say but, his mind suddenly went blank. He met her curious gaze and smiled. How was he going to sweep her off her feet?
She waited patiently for him to speak. She could sense his anxiety. Whatever he had to say must be complex. She hoped he would sum up the courage and let her know what was on his mind. What could it be?
“I am going to be brief and direct,” he loosened his red tie a bit.
“Okay, I am all ears.”
“I like you a lot. I have been watching you for a while and you are the kind of woman I would love to date and hopefully get married to.”
Her face lit in amusement. She was flattered. She had caught him a few times staring at her in the office. She had also noticed his over-nice attitude towards her. She should have known that he had a crush on her. All the signs were there.
“I am… Em… I am flattered.”
He grinned. He felt he had done very well. He hoped she would agree to dine with him if he asked her that night.
“I am deeply sorry that at the moment, I am not thinking of dating anyone. Marriage is the farthest thing from my mind,” she hoped he would understand her reasons and wouldn’t feel rejected.
The smile on his face faded, “I know that you broke up with Gbenga a few months ago. I am glad it happened. People like us have the opportunity to ask you out because you are single and free again.”
She raised a brow. She couldn’t believe he was glad that she broke up with her ex-fiance. One man’s meat was surely another man’s poison.
“I am sorry Oyetunde. I appreciate you, but, I am not in the right frame of mind to date at the moment.”
His frown deepened, “Why are you wasting your time crying over spilt milk? I don’t understand some of you ladies.”
She crossed her hands against her chest. His unwarranted anger was beginning to irritate her.
“Don’t you want to move on? The guy has definitely moved on.”
She glanced at her wrist-watch. She would like to leave the premises as soon as possible. Traffic was likely to build it at the moment.
“Forget Gbenga, I am here. Allow me to treat you like the queen you are.”
She covered her mouth with a hand and tried to stop the laughter that bubbled from within her.
“Oyetunde, I am so sorry. I am… ”
“Whatever,” he interrupted her, “Have a nice weekend,” he started to walk away.
She watched him leave and shook her head in pity. Some men do not know how to remain friendly after ladies turned them down. One couldn’t blame them. Rejection was painful. She turned around and walked over to her car.
It’s being four months since she broke up with Gbenga. She could face him any day and at any time without feeling hurt or assaulted by past memories. Oyetunde was wrong, she had moved on. She wasn’t ready to date yet because she wanted to give herself time to learn from her past and take things slow. She would be making a big mistake if she jumped into another relationship.
Moreover, Oyetunde was far from the kind of man she would like to date or marry. He must have really liked her to have gotten so upset.
She started the engine of the car and drove out of the car park.
It was the twenty-third of December. TL Communications was closing for the year and every single staff member was thrilled because it was their last day at work.
Vivian Njemanze had a brief meeting with her staff before they disappeared from the permises.
“You are all expected to be at the staff party on the third of January. You have no excuse not to be there. Even if you travel to the moon, you must show up for the party. It is over-compulsory. It is at Civic Centre, Victoria Island. I believe you have all received your Christmas bonus.”
“Yes ma,” they chorused.
“Good. We will be resuming unfailingly, on the tenth of January. Have a beautiful holiday.”
“Thank you ma.”
She returned to her office.
Kemisola sat on Adaeze’s table.
“The staff party is going to cut short our trip to UK.”
“True. What are we going to do?”
“We will make the best of what we have.”
“Hmmm…. At least we won’t be spending the holidays on the shores of the country.”
“True talk sister,” they gave each other a high-five and giggled.
Oyetunde headed for the door with his briefcase, “See you all next year. I am off to the airport. I have a plane to catch.”
They watched him go.
Adaeze and Kemisola hissed. They didn’t care where he went or what he did.
Boma met Promise’s questioning gaze. He shrugged and resumed arranging the content of his drawers.
“I thought you are the closest to him.”
He raised his head and returned her stare.
“We are not best of friends. I don’t know everything about him and I don’t share my personal thoughts with him.”
She raised one of her eyebrows, “Really?”
“Interesting,” she glanced at her wrist-watch. It exactly six p.m. Her siblings would have gotten home by now. The last time she heard from them was that morning when they left school. She frowned at the thought of sharing the car with them for another four weeks. She needed to buy her own car as soon as possible.
Adaeze and Kemisola walked out of the office without saying a word to them.
Promise shook her head and sighed. Those two gave her huge concerns. She had overheard a staff gossiping about their illicit affairs. It was no more news that Kemisola was dating the Human Resources Manager and Adaeze was going out with the Accountant General. These men were married with children. What do these women hope to gain? Financial benefits? She had learnt her own lessons the hard way and would never make such mistakes again.
She doesn’t know how else to reach out to them except through her words and actions. She had tried inviting them to church programs thrice, but, they never showed up. She would continue praying for them.
“Will you still be on the Island during the Christmas and New Year period?”
Her question surprised him.
“Not really. I will be fluctuating between Ilupeju and Dolphin Estate.”
She nodded and whirled herself in a clockwise position with her chair.
“If I get bored, I might pay you a visit. I don’t have too many friends. Spending the vacation at home can be such a bore.”
“Okay… Just give me a call and I will prepare a feast.”
She started to laugh.
He felt relieved. He had been trying to get close to her for over three months. He was elated that his tenacity had finally paid off. It gladdened him that she now considered him as a friend. What a sweet relief!
It was New Year’s Eve. The festivities in the air was so thick, one could cut it with a knife.
Boma and Charles sat on the rug in the sitting room, eating from a bowl of freshly made pop corn and playing a game of Ludo.
The door bell rang.
Charles raised his head.
“Are you expecting anyone?”
Boma looked up at him and shook his head, “No, are you?”
“No,” he got up and went to see who was at the door. He looked into the hole drilled on the door.
“Who is it?”
Charles unlocked the door and opened it.
“Compliments of the season.”
“Wish you the same,” he stepped back, giving him room to come in.
Gbenga walked into the sitting room and settled on one of the leather chairs.
“Morning, thought you travelled or something.”
He shook his head, “I wanted to, but changed my mind at the last-minute.”
“Really?” Charles sat beside him.
“What do you have in the house? Hope you cooked.”
Boma started to laugh.
“We are bachelors like you. I don’t know about Boma, but, I am not cut out for fiesta shopping and cooking.”
Gbenga eyed both of them. He didn’t cook either. Who else could he visit? If he was still dating Promise, he would be at her place eating her mother’s sumptous delicacies. It was high time he started looking out for a wife.
Boma’s phone started to ring. The moment he saw the caller’s ID, he leapt to his feet and hurried out of the room.
Gbenga glanced at Charles and he shrugged.
Boma marched into his bedroom and closed the door.
“Hi, are you home?”
“Yes, bored already?” He teased her.
She chuckled. The sound of her laughter filled him with warmth. He leaned on the door and held the phone closer to his ear.
“Yes, I am bored. Are you still in Dolphin Estate?”
“Yes, I am at your service madam,” he bowed, even though she couldn’t see him.
She laughed softly. “Okay, I am coming over. We could watch a movie at Silverbird Galleria, grab lunch and maybe later you could join my family for dinner before we head for church tonight.”
“I like your plans. I accept.”
“All right. See you in a bit,” she hang up.
He continued smiling while he prepared to take a bath.
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Promise alighted from a cab in front of the duplex. The driver drove away while she walked into the large compound. She wondered if Gbenga was home. What if she saw him? Does it matter? She had gotten over him.
She found her way to the Boys’ quarters. She knocked at the door the same moment she sighted a doorbell nailed to the wall. Should she press the bell or keep knocking? She decided to do both.
Charles opened the door and was surprised to see her.
“Wow! Hi… ”
“Hi. Compliments of the season,” she smiled back at him.
“I wish you the same. Please come in,” he stepped back and she followed him into the sitting room. Her heart missed several beats when she saw Gbenga seated on one of the leather chairs with a ludo board on his laps. She wasn’t expecting to see him there.
Boma walked in that same moment.
“You look beautiful.”
She turned towards him and smiled. He looked quite handsome in the brown tee-shirt and blue jeans.
“Thanks, are you ready?”
“Yes madam,” he bowed comically.
She started to laugh.
Gbenga sized her up. She was clad in a pink short sleeve blouse and the black pants she wore graced her curves. He wondered if she had added weight.
“Gentlemen, I am off. Don’t wait up for me,” he took her by the hand and led her out of the house.
“Are they dating?”
“I have no idea. They work in the same office, so… I don’t know,” Charles locked the front door.
Gbenga sighed. Why was he feeling distressed? He knew he would eventually see Promise with another man. But, he never expected to feel bad about it. He had gotten over her, hadn’t he?
Boma and Promise had lunch at one of the restaurant in the Galleria. On their way out, they debated on what movie they would watch.
Promise noticed a tall fair pretty lady standing a few feet away and smiling at Boma. She poked him on the shoulder.
“Do you know her?”
“Who?” He looked around. Who was she talking about? His smiles disappeared the moment he saw her.
“Boma Etuk, it is so good to see you,” her smile widened.
“Cecilia, how are you?”
“I am good, and you?”
“Good, didn’t know you were back in the country.”
“A lot of people do not know,” she brushed away a stray strand of hair from her face.
Promise stood in the background. Who could the lady be? Boma doesn’t really look happy to see her.
“My husband and I decided to spend the holidays here in Nigeria. We will be leaving next week.”
Her curious gaze drifted to Promise.
“Who is your friend?”
“Oh! Pardon me,” he drew her closer, “Promise meet my ex-girlfriend Cecilia. Cecilia, this is Promise, a very good and special friend of mine.”
Both women shook hands and locked gazes.
Cecilia turned to Boma, “My husband is waiting for me downstairs. I have to run.”
“Oh okay. Take care.”
She waved at them and walked away.
“Your ex-girlfriend is a pretty woman.”
“Hmmm… She left me when I lost my former job.”
“What?!” She placed a hand over her mouth.
He took her by the hand and led her back into the restaurant. They found an empty table and settled down.
“We were planning to get married early this year. The company I was working for went bankrupt and when I lost my job, she deserted me. She said she wasn’t sure how soon I would get another job. She was dead sure that she would end up being the bread-winner.”
She shook her head in amazement. Some women never ceased to surprise her.
“I thought she loved me enough to wait, exercise patience and pray along with me for a miracle, but, she left and jumped into the arms of the next available wealthy guy.”
“Wow!” She sensed his sadness. She reached out for one of his hands and squeezed it.
“I am over her now, but, it took God to heal me and help me to start trusting again.”
“I had no idea.”
He met her concerned intent gaze.
“It’s over eight months. I hope she is happy.”
“She looked happy.”
“Hmmm… It is well.”
Silenced enveloped them. She pondered whether to open up to him or not.
“Gbenga and I… ”
“What happened?” He had been wondering why they broke up.
“We were planning to get married too, but, he couldn’t deal with some of my past issues.”
He squeezed her hand, “It is not everybody that can deal or live with your past.”
She nodded, “That doesn’t make it less painful.”
“True. Let us be consoled with the fact that God has our best interest at heart. He is ever in control.”
She smiled back at him.
“Okay, enough gist. It is movie time,” he pulled her up and led her out. She followed him laughing all the way.
Boma drove her home after the movie and had dinner with her family that same night.
She settled in her seat, kicked off her white high-heeled shoes and thought of calling Kemisola. It was their first day at work that year. She was looking forward to an increase in salary. She needed to move out of her brother’s house at Victoria Island and move into her own apartment. They had been nice enough to accommodate her when she got the job at TL Communications. She needed her own space and privacy. She also needed a car. The amount she spent on cabs daily was enough to change her wardrobe monthly.
She was thirty-six. Time wasn’t waiting for her. She hoped to settle down as soon as possible. The Heads of Account who she was having an affair with was far from divorcing his wife. He had promised to end his marriage, but, she was certain he wouldn’t separate from his spouse even at gun point. The only reason why she was still with him was because of the financial benefits. She would drop him like a piece of hot potato once she found a single wealthy guy who was ready to marry her.
She might attend one of the series of church programs Promise had invited her to in the past year. May be God might have mercy on her and favour her with a husband. She doesn’t want to end up like her boss who was turning forty-one that year. She had never been married and she had no children. Her job was her husband. She cleared her thoughts and started to dial Kemisola’s number on her iphone.
“Hello stranger,” she closed the door behind her.
She looked up and smiled, “I was just about to call you.”
Kemisola approached her, swinging a purple clutch bag. She wanted her colleague to notice the designer label on the bag which had cost her a fortune.
“Where did you disappear to during the staff party?”
She dropped her iphone on her desk, “I sneaked out of the party with you know who,” she winked at her. She saw the Gucci label on the bag. How much did it cost?
“Hope you had fun.”
“Of course I did.”
She noticed her colleague’s outfit, “Someone looks Sekxy today. Do you have a date?” She drew out her chair.
“No dates. Just felt like looking good,” she felt pleased that she was impressed with her outfit. Everyone else would go gaga.
“If the Heads of Account sees you, you will get a date and a fat package on your way home.”
Adaeze nodded in agreement, “I might swing by his office later today.”
“That’s my girl,” she would start wearing some of the clothes she bought at Dubai and UK. Adaeze wasn’t the only one who knew how to look good.
“We don’t slack when it comes to opportunities,” she gave her a high five.
Oyetunde walked in, mumbled something that sounded like ‘Good morning’ and went over to his corner.
On her way out of the car park, she saw someone stepping out of a wine Honda Element car.
“Boma Etuk?!” She blinked in surprise.
He glanced side ways and saw her standing a few feet away.
“Hey! Hi… Morning,” the last time he saw her was at the staff’s party. She looked really good in her brown skirt suit. He liked the way the skirt swarm across her knees.
She approached the car, “Is this yours?”
He brushed his fingers on the warm bonnet of the car, “Yes, this is my new car.”
“My God!” She touched it and felt its smoothness, “Congratulations.”
“Thank you. I am taking you out to celebrate with me after work today.”
Her eyes glowed in astonishment, “Really? That will be great,” they had gotten pretty close during the holiday. She was glad she had someone like him as a friend.
He grinned and took her by the hand.
“Let’s head to the office. I am sure that Miss. Vivian has arrived.”
She chuckled and fell into steps with him. He was right. Their boss always got to the office before anyone of them. There was a time she began to suspect that the woman lived in her office, but, later erased the notion from her mind.
To Be Continued…