Sunday 17 May 2009

CASH OR CREDIT 3.........

This is a continuation of Jen's complicated life in the crazy city of lagos! Part 1 can be found here and Part 2 here. Enjoy!


8.45am Monday morning on the concrete steps that flank the huge revolving glass doors of Holloway Grove in Victoria Island. The sun shone brightly in the cloudless sky and the heat began to intensify as the morning progressed, traffic groaned along ever more hurriedly as Lagosians frantically tried to make it to their offices just in the nick of time.
Nigerians are known for their excellent time keeping skills; well sometimes anyway.

Musa, the front gate man for Holloway Grove sat on the third step watching the drama, in his opinion he had best view this side of the continent.
He was a 55 year old man with wise eyes, thick dark curls for hair and a heavy Hausa drawl. He had been a handsome man in his youth and still was in fairness but he never noticed that. His very northern features-pointed nose, long jaw and high cheekbones showed no wrinkles against his dark complexion and Sandra the receptionist occasionally complained that he looked almost her age, this made Musa laugh. His apparent calm earned him a fan in the young receptionist and most days he ate his lunch for free. Musa had done his fair share of hard labour in the unrelenting pronominal heat of the north during his youth and now he felt ready for semi-retirement which is what he got here. Musa did not mind his job, he received mediocre pay for doing mediocre work and that was fine by him, as long as he earned enough to send his children to school back in Nasarawa State he was content.
Peeling an orange Musa quietly whistled, and fiddled with the volume control, to keep the noise of his portable radio at an acceptable level. His dark curls shone in the bright sun, wet from the ablution of his morning prayers and just as he was about to raise the rind of his fruit to his lips he saw the new “bature" looking girl glide in through the staff entrance. He remembered her from last Thursday, mostly due to her nervous constant finger wringing but today she seemed to glow. Musa recalled Sandra explaining a weird conversation between the new girl and Kabir the Architect. Musa understood; Kabir seemed to have that effect on women, he attributed the bitter tone in Sandra's voice to sour grapes. Although, as he watched the young girl delightfully skip her way towards the glass chrome doors he felt slightly concerned by her giddy disposition. She smiled at him and half-knelt in greeting, Musa nodded back a response and watched her smile broadly and check her reflection in the glass doors, he sighed. He knew Kabir and he worried for the young girl.

9.00am Monday morning and Jen strolled into the grand foyer of Holloway her heels clicking loudly on the marble floor; passing by the empty reception desk- the lycra receptionist was late- she smiled reminiscently at the glass sculpture and made her way straight for the elevator. Everything was wonderful today, nothing could bring her down. She passed the interview last Thursday and looked forward to her job as Junior Auditor for Prada & Co, she had a wonderful boyfriend and she was wearing new Kurt Geigers. Producing her brand new staff card Jen virgin swiped it at the elevator and gave a little dance as she was electronically signed her in and the doors silently slid open. Her manicured cranberry painted finger nail pressed the fifth floor and Jen summoned up Kabirs scent as the elevator rose slowly to her office. It seemed a life-time ago she had stood in this glass box staring at his startling beauty, as her blush began to deepen the doors stopped at her floor.
The floor was just as large as Kabir’s office and five sun windows adorned the white-washed walls. It was a rectangular space and the fifteen square shaped cubicles offered adequate work surface. The cream carpets stretched all around the front area and down the hall to the printing and faxing section. The MAC computers quietly hummed, having been switched on from the mains and the coffee machine bubbled away.
Her boss Mrs. Susan Shaw had her office situated at the centre of the floor. A round glass box, offering no privacy, for better transparency, she had told Jen during her interview. Mrs. Shaw had already arrived and was elbow deep in paper work despite being the only one in the office, Jen admired her commitment. She walked towards her door and knocked quietly against the dark panelled wood
“Morning Mrs. Shaw” she whispered
Her boss looked up startled. In the dull glow of her table lamp her blond hair looked silver. Her face had reached a stage where it had become susceptible to wrinkles but in the quiet of the morning her skin shimmered, her green eyes appeared alert and distracted at the same time and the dark spectacles atop her head gave her a head-mistress look.
Balancing the telephone in the crook of her left shoulder, Mrs. Shaw gestured to one of the empty chairs in her office and apologetically pointed to the telephone. Jen nodded in understanding and took a seat. She listened as her boss brokered a transaction with a mobile service provider, occasionally jotting down numbers and calculating percentages, she seemed to have five arms with the speed at which she operated. Jen knew her boss was Liverpool University alumni and was married to an Ijaw man, although she maintained her maiden name. He worked from home as a landscape architect and she was a high-powered financial force to be reckoned with. Jen saw The Shaw’s life as a future prediction for her and her beloved Kabir.

Jen busied herself by staring at the framed picture of her bosses kids on the mantel piece displayed besides her Trusted Staff award. Taken at the beach, the 10year old identical boy and girl twins beamed brightly at the camera and proudly showed off their red plastic buckets and matching spades, blue sea and the crooked sand castle they had built were in the background. They had arms around each other, curly half-caste hair and light brown coloured skin dripped water and their matching blue swimming trunks were soiled with sand. They were beautiful to look at and the image made you smile. Honestly, the picture looked like a poster for M&S kids’ summer collection
“Nne Kedu" her boss said sweetly into the telephone receiver
Jen’s head jerked up, she knew her boss spoke Yoruba almost as good as she did, she also heard Mrs. Shaw conversing with the security guard in broken Hausa on the day of her interview as she walked Jen out; but Igbo? That was seriously impressive. Jen listened intently to the one-sided conversation.
“Ewu...” Mrs. Shaw said jokingly
“Is it me you want to cheat? You promised u know.”
“So I should expect your boy when?”
“Okay darling. You’re my favourite again"
Mrs. Shaw hung up laughing and turned her full attention to Jen. After niceties were exchanged and coffee offered, she walked Jen to her desk and handed her the tax returns from last month.
“You’ll be dealing with the expenditure aspect and Mariya- Mrs. Shaw tapped the desk besides Jen- will deal with payments.”
She looked at Jen for a while after that and said very slowly
“We don’t offer training wheels here, Jennifer. The minute you feel overwhelmed you let me know. There is no shame in asking for help”
“I understand” Jen said
As her boss walked away, the elevator sounded and deposited eight more of her team-mates. One of whom brought cookies- yep, Jen definitely loved today. Mariya was a tall and slender girl in a chequered high-waist skirt and amazingly beautiful. Her ink-black weave was precision parted down the centre of her forehead and hung down to her breasts with the edges pencil sharp straight. Her very slanted eyes peeked out from amazingly arched eye-brows, a smooth forehead and very high cheekbones polished mocha skin. Her heels and hem line were the highest in the office and it would be easy to hate but for her first-class certificate in Quantitative Finance from Imperial College London mocking you. The Swarovski crystal frame glinted against the dark wood panel of her work desk and Jen felt inadequacy for the first time in a long time.
Mariya nodded in Jen’s direction, grabbed an M&M cookie from the box being passed round and sitting down gracefully on her upholstered chair got to work. Her red nails churning out numbers on her sleek calculator almost as fast as Mrs. Shaw this morning. Great Jen thought, she’s hot and smart, just bloody fantastic.

As the morning progressed Jen wondered why Kabir had not called, she was slightly worried that he might be ill. They had only spoken for a short while on Sunday but she had been so busy with church and the family lunch that she thought she would let him sleep in. it was now Monday and Jen’s conscience was starting to niggle annoyingly. Her blackberry displayed the delivery status of the previous five text messages she had sent to Kabir just this morning. Now she began to panic, she hoped he was alright. It was unlike him not to check-in; maybe he was just swamped with work. Yes, that was it. It wasn't a slow day on the fifth floor either, Jen mused as her colleagues traded Night of a Thousand Laughs jokes across cubicles. The cookie lady performed an amazing imitation of something and Jen tried to laugh with everyone else. Every thirty seconds she glanced at her phone, even switching it off and on again to make sure the radio waves were clear. Nothing. The little voice in her head tried to speak but Jen silenced it with more cookies, three cups of strong coffee and when the afternoon dessert trolley arrived, cupcakes covered in icing sugar.

By mid-morning Jen was wired up, neurotic and bordering on paranoia. She incessantly tapped her heels against the side of her desk ignoring the do-u-mind coughs from Mariya. Three unanswered calls and a further six text messages later she gave up on work and concentrated on staring at her phone and pressing the send button every time the screen went dark. There was a bitter feeling beginning to rise in her throat.
“A watched phone never rings” Mariya said as she gave a pitiful side look
Jen hissed angrily at her, and grabbing her suit jacket from behind her chair decided to brave it all and confront the eight floor. She would merely go and find out that he called in sick, and then she could silence the voice in her head and get back to number crunching. The elevator rose up too soon and Jen stepped out nervously, she immediately locked eyes with the polka-dot lady she had met on her previous visit. Jen walked up to her and said as nonchalantly as she could
“Kabir didn’t come in today?”
The lady appeared to look ashamed for a minute but her features relaxed again before Jen could be sure.
“No he’s in dear” she replied in clipped English and "Im fine, thank you for asking"
Jen didn’t possess the fortitude to be embarrassed at her lack of tact and immediately made a beeline for Kabir’s office. The little voice had to be silenced; maybe he had a horrible accident and lost all use of his fingers….or something, Jen turned the handle of the door without knocking, her vocal chords set to accuse, and her hands balled up in fists but found an empty office. She looked desperately around for a clue, a reason, or an explanation for this silent treatment but found nothing. His Sony Ericsson charger was plugged in at the wall which meant he was with his phone; his desktop screen displayed cutaway drawings in three-dimensional illustration of the new wing of a bank. There was no way around it, he was at work but didn’t want to speak to her.

Jen’s chest closed up and her heart began to thud painfully. What had she done wrong? Kabir was ignoring her and she didn’t know why. Then her brain snapped forcefully into focus, of course she knew why the little voice nagged. What else could he want from her, he had everything already. Jen felt the last dregs of optimism drain from her soul.
Shaking her head disbelievingly Jen half-ran out of the office and took the stairs down to her floor, she raced along rapidly and grabbed her bag from beneath her table, shoving her belongings in as hurriedly as she could, bruising her fingers in the process. Ignoring the stares of Mariya and everyone else she painfully bit her lip as she draped her bag on her shoulders. She just had to get out of here before her eyes began to bleed. Her breathing was already apace, she just had to leave this stupid building right-away. She yanked out the plug of her system and ran to elevator, her head ached, her feet pinched in the tight leather of her shoes and her palms stung from where she’d scraped her skin against the inner zipper in her bag. The lift was taking too long so Jen made for the fire-exit and she began to stumble on the tiled steps, just as she heard a British accent bark out her name.

Jen turned around to face her boss and opened her mouth to say how ill she was feeling, possibly blame it on the cupcakes. Mrs. Shaw rose up a hand stopping Jen before she even begun and ignoring her red face and wet eyes, crooked her index finger beckoning her closer. Jen stepped meekly forward.
“The human resource department needs your records. I have filled out the form sheet but in order to be processed faster it needs to be delivered by hand. The floor secretary is on her lunch break so you should take it down.” Mrs. Shaw ordered

Jen nodded her head once in response and collected the brown filofax envelope with a sweaty hand. Turning around she walked slowly down the stairs, halting once again as her name was sharply called. Jen turned around tiredly and faced her boss again
“Come straight back here. I don’t care how poorly you feel” and with that Mrs. Shaw turned on her heel and disappeared into the office

Jen held down tears of self-pity as she walked briskly down the stairs to the second floor. It was a small room in comparison to her office but was brightly lit with about a dozen fluorescence ceiling lights. A large glass cabinet dominated the centre wall and held heavily bounded files and records, majority in hardback. There were no standing metal cabinets for storage as Jen expected but as defined normality for Holloway the room was air conditioned to a great extent. The heavy floral scent perfumed the air and jolted Jen from her distressed state. She paid attention the burst of colour from the array of floral arrangements that perfumed the air and enlivened the otherwise bare room with their hue; glass vases displayed everything from sunflowers and chrysanthemums and large green tropical leaves.
Marching to the first available cashier, Jen plonked down the filofax and asked for a staff admission form, the fat lady clad in a heavily patterned boubou handed Jen one without even looking up from the Nigerian movie playing on her compact DVD player resting on her lap. She heavily sucked on her lollipop and Jen resisted the urge to shove it down her throat. Jennifer handed back the completed boring questionnaire, collected her stamped letter and was about to leave through the secondary entrance when the floral scent was disturbed by spice. It was strong and intrusive and Jen in her hazy state seemed to watch in slow motion as down the hall Kabir escorted a girl in a purple scarf down the stairs. The fat lady noisily sniffed the air once too and quickly pressed the intercom whispering in a loud voice to her colleague “E don come o”
All three women stared as Kabir held hands with the petite dark girl. Kabir held their joint palms to his chest and as they got to the landing of the stairs bent his head and kissed her lightly, delicately and in an ethereal fashion on her lips. Jen looked on as though in a bad movie. It was the scene from his office last week, but Kabir was the one encapsulated in the beauty of the woman. He stared at her in a way different from how he looked at Jen- not with enraging desire and confusion but with reverence and idolism. Like he literally would worship the ground she walked on, and kiss the hem of her garment if she asked him to. He stroked the side of her face and bowed his head in submission, as though at her mercy. The cashier women oohed and made “God please send me my own” remarks.

Jen winced and gripped the table with white knuckles as her heart tore painfully and the ragged edges scraped against her empty chest. Through eyes pouring rain and blood she watched Kabir and the purple scarf girl kiss tenderly for a short while. Through the haze she heard the two cashiers in a distant conversation: Kabir and Halima were engaged, date not yet set, he has eyes for no one but her, has been coming down here everyday from the day she started work two years ago….

Jen began to tremble, as her bones shook furiously; it was like someone had struck a frozen rod into her very being, her body heat evaporated. The room was cold, too cold. The air conditioners blew Kabir's perfume more into her presence; it diffused within the room completely over-powering the floral scents that had shortly been her refuge. He was taking everything from her; her heat, her sanity, and her tears.
As Jen sobbing grew even louder she begged her weighted feet to move, her lips parted in silent prayer as she begged God to vanquish her from this place, she just wanted to disappear. The ground should open up and swallow her, allow her to live in darkness for awhile. The two women stared at Jen frightened as her sobbing grew worse. Jen tried to ask to be carried away, away from here but her lips made no audible sound and her body remained fixated, watching its own destruction….

Every time Kabir touched the girl, Jen hurt as if cut with a frozen knife; she was in so much pain and so terribly cold even her blood ran chilled. The way Kabir stared at her….wistfully; it was like she was all his blessings come true.
Jen’s conscience forced her lips to utter her name…Halima. Her life was Jen’s destruction, the author of her misery. Halima stared at Kabir in amusement as he pleaded with her to extend her lunch break, shaking her head no even as he kissed her fingers. It was worship, all worship from his part. Jen watched their exchange, asking herself how she could have ever thought she was Kabir’s type. Halima was petite; her strikingly beautiful face was unadorned with makeup apart from the kajal that lined her bright eyes and the long eyelashes that framed them. Her hair was covered in a bright purple scarf but the few strands that escaped were beautiful- long, dark and soft like his, her neck stood elegant and diamonds shone from the double piercings on her ear, her attire plain white shirt and a long black skirt; the heels her feet wore were short. She looked like a princess, effortlessly wonderful. Even through her pain Jen could see that.
Compared to Halima everything about Jen suddenly seemed excessive; her weave, her height, her breasts, her hips and her heels. Standing in the stairwell with Kabir, they struck a beautiful couple; his eyes adoring, her face bashful and their fingers entwined. Jen could never be that way; her head slightly bowed and her demeanour meek, modest and mild. She always stared straight into his eyes, never breaking contact.
It was never even a competition for Jennifer, Halima was exquisite and Kabir was enthralled by her. Just like Jen was with him even now as he stomped on her heart and made a mockery of what they had shared.
Kabir turned around at that moment and noticed Jen, he looked humiliated. Jen let the pain in her eyes show, hoping he would stride up to her, hold her and explain everything. Say she was confused and none of what she witnessed was real, Jen wanted him to hold her. Kabir gave Jen a final glance then and turned his back on her, kissing Halima a final time he climbed up the stairs and out of sight, laughing his husky laugh as she said something funny. Jen couldn’t stay anymore, she didn’t want to look into Halima’s eyes…she bolted from the room, grazing her ankle against the door jamb in the process.

Limping, Jen managed to make her way to the bathroom and crawled on all fours across the cold floor till she could lean her head against a porcelain sink. Jen slumped her shoulders, held on steadfast to the exposed metal piping least she collapse and wept. Jen wept for the framed picture of beautiful children playing on the beach that will never be, for the fantasy she had created that was a lie, for falling in love with the way he said her name, the cold that consumed her chest and clutched at her heart, each breathe squeezed at it till she gritted her teeth in pain, so Jen exhaled in huffs. Above all she wept because she was stupid, very stupid. Jen had been present at enough relationship interventions for girlfriends to know the drill.
It did not matter what had been said, she could hate him all she wanted but the fault would lie before her always. Kabir was a guy and she was the girl. She knew better, oh if her friends could see her now, the same friends she had given advice to, told to be strong, grown impatient with as they moped over forgotten passions. There was nothing different about her situation, she got played. Was she that easy a target? For all her self determination and drive, was she that easy a target?
If they could see her now….

Jennifer didn’t know how long she wept on the floor, scratching her nails against the sink each time a new wave of pain washed over her. Her shredded heart had long ago given up trying to explain what happened downstairs, come up with excuses. Her brain was weary from replaying very kiss she and Kabir shared and comparing it with the one she’d witnessed in HR. Jen shivered, her goose bumps grew more aggressive and her teeth began to shatter. As Jen lay in the foetal position rocking back and forth she heard the bathroom door creak open and heels click in her direction, her eyes were too sore to open and adjust so she kept them closed. Mariya tapped her foot impatiently
“You have work to do” she stated. Jen merely groaned and tried to turn away but Mariya calmly walked into her line of sight again
“We have a deadline and I will not let you mess up my quota” Mariya continued
Jen wished she would go away and leave her be, she didn’t need to be told she was a failure. She was aware of that already; she was a huge dumbass, stupid failure.
“Do u even know how pathetic you look?” Mariya continued unabashed
“Crying and writhing on the bathroom floor like a weakling. I don’t know what medication you are on but if you do not get yourself back to the office you will lose your job”
Jen didn’t care. She had no desire to work three floors below Kabir anyway.
“Listen!” Mariya’s voice rose. Jen jumped up startled
“Shaw is a taskmaster, but she rewards hard work well.” Mariya bent to eye-level with Jen “There is no greater revenge than success” and before Jen could respond, not that she was going to, Mariya walked out muttering “clean yourself up”

Jen wanted to lie on the floor till the pain stopped, till the world ended so she would never have to face Kabir again; then she thought of her mother. She had been full of praise and pride since Jen announced she got the job, to think she would lose it over a boy…..NO! Jen got up as steadily as she could and braved her reflection in the mirror above the sink, even with the attractive soft lighting it was worse than she expected. Her Acuvue one-a-day contact lenses had dried up from the saltiness of her tears; her eyes were red, puffy and itchy. Her mascara had left streak lines all down her face and her foundation caked, the cracks resembling dried riverbeds. Jen took out her contacts and cupping cold water from the tap soaked each eye for as long as she could, she washed her face with the bathroom hand wash and reaching for her bag with bruised fingers, brought out her make-up bag and slowly tried to look human. Once she was done, she dug out her lip-gloss but on finding that it was strawberry scented chucked it in the bin with all the force her limp arms could muster. Vaseline will just have to do then; she applied more of the ointment to her sore red fingertips and the darkened bruise on her slightly swollen ankle. Opening up the bathroom door, Jen monitored her heart rate and climbed the stairs to her office; ignoring the elevator. She was never using that again, ever.

Jen reached the fifth floor and praying reverently walked up to her bosses’ office and knocked. Mrs. Shaw accepted the stamped form without looking up from her computer and Asked Jen if she was feeling better. Jen forced a yes out of her parched throat and on dismissal ran back to her desk. Mariya handed Jen a glass of water without looking at her and a bulging file of receipts. Jen stared at the work and welcomed it, if her head was full of numbers her brain won’t be able to drag up memories, her heart won’t be able to wish, her body will be too fatigued to long for him. Jen faced her computer, grateful for the indifference and immersed herself in Excel.

A month or two passed, Jen paid no attention to time. There was no need as her routine was the same. She arrived each day at 8.45am, greeted Musa at the gate, walked by a vacant reception desk and made her way up to the fifth floor with her boss already present, elbow deep in paper work and two coffees ahead. After the first fortnight, Jen grew accustomed to her co-workers and their various routines; so every morning she would hand Musa an apple or an orange with a “Gashi Mallam” and always he would respond with a surprised “Ah Nagode.” Each lunch break she would go down to the reception desk and exchange gossip with Sandra- who she had grown to love as a result for their mutual fatherly bond with Musa. Except for on Wednesdays when Sandra took acting classes down at National Theatre, leaving Jen with the responsibility of buying Musa lunch. She regularly sourced Nollywood movies from the ladies in HR- Temi and Tolu, avoiding the tiny desk in the corner which belonged to Halima. She had them convinced that her breakdown from her first visit was a result of her boss screaming at her. “Eh Pele” they had said, offering her candy.
She had no luck pretending to Mariya, her co-worker, although Jen had a feeling she knew. Mariya was the type of woman who knew everything but chose not to say, she never indulged Jen in how she had known where to find that day, and Jen never asked. They had not formed a friendship and for that Jen was grateful, she didn’t want the only person that had seen her cower on the toilet floor to make small talk. Jen would constantly wonder if it was pity. They worked in comfortable silence, their numbers ahead of everyone else in the office and Jen liked it that way. The cookie lady- Meg brought a box every Monday because her sister ran a catering business and every Monday Mariya would have the M&M and Jen the chocolate chip. It was all normal, except for the fact that Jen never used the elevator and had to resist the urge to smash the glass sculpture in the foyer into a million pieces with a sledge hammer every time she walked by. Kabir had attempted calling her once since she last saw him and had left a distressed voicemail but nothing since then. She hadn’t bumped into him; they must be doing a good job of avoiding each other.

Harmattan came suddenly; the leaves fell rapidly from the trees and great gusts of wind assaulted Jen’s daily commute. The mornings were freezing with clouds hung low in the sky and the afternoons dry with the sun attempting to break through the dust. Jen put off wearing white till the dusty season passed and made the mallam who sold chap stick in his shed down the road more money than she liked to muse on.
It was on a dusty Friday afternoon as Jen sat on her desk chatting with Meg that she got her big break.
“You have earned yourself the Etisalat account Jennifer” Mrs. Shaw announced loudly to the whole office. Jen broke into a huge grin and jumped up bowing to loud applause from her colleagues.
“You’re on your own on this one. Mariya is chasing down leads for a different account. Now this is important, I’ve been working on this deal for a month and a half” Mrs. Shaw continued and Jen distantly remembered her first morning in the boss’s office and the conversation she had about the mobile company.

At 2.00pm the representative from Etisalat showed up and Jen put on her best Colgate smile. He was about two inches above Jen’s 5ft 7inc and he wore a bright yellow tie, the only colour against his otherwise boring suit. He walked as if in a hurry and made no attempt to shake Jennifer’s outstretched hand.
“We are so glad to have you with us” she beamed
Esosa Oyakilhome rolled his tired eyes and nodded abruptly “sure sure” he said
Oook Jennifer thought but his moodiness won’t dampen her joy, she continued cheerily
‘So here are our plans for your campaign expenditure, here at Prada & Co we believe you could double your profits with this mar-
“Are you always going to be like this” Esosa interrupted staring at Jen dejectedly. “Talking like you are in a commercial.”
Jen made to speak but Esosa hushed her. There is no need for this unnecessary smiling, so you can relax” he added fiddling with the glass swan on her table.
“What does this mean?” he asked
“Nothing” Jen responded curtly grabbing it from him and setting it down on her desk with a thud. Esosa chuckled at her abrupt gear change.
She flipped open the file angrily and noticed that the expenses form was absent from the paperwork.
“I’ll be just a moment” Jen said and without waiting for an answer, jumped up and walked towards the staircase. He didn’t care for niceties so why should she bother, besides he was right, they had already gotten the contract. After all, he was only the “boy” it’s not like he owned the bloody thing

Jen skipped down the stairs, humming determinedly, she was going to keep her spirits high, despite her difficult client. She was thinking of perhaps trying once more by sharing a joke she’d heard when he called her name
“Jennifer” Kabir said
Halting mid-step, Jennifer didn’t turn.
“Please we need to talk” Kabir continued walking towards her slowly. Jen tried to stop herself from looking up but she wanted to see if he was as she remembered. Try as Jen might she couldn’t make the horns and the forked tail fit on the live thing as easily as they had in her thoughts. He was still beautiful. They stared at each other for minutes, coming to the realization that they were alone again, for the first time since that Saturday. Just the two of them standing in the empty stairwell between floors.

“Jennifer…” Kabir smiled widely as they locked eyes. The scent washed over her like a warm waterfall, his voice like honey in her ears; but Jen had ammunition.
Jennifer saw herself on the floor that morning, the way Mariya found her and shook her head vehemently from side to side.
“No, no, no,” she repeatedly whispered. “Stay away from me” Jen backed her steps till her back hit the wall on the landing
“Jennifer please, just let me explain” Kabir said pained as he saw the mistrust in her eyes. It cut him deep that Jen was so hurt; she was moving away from him.
“Married…” was all Jen’s lips could say. As Kabir made to reach out, Jen put up her hands as a defensive wall
“Married” she repeated
“If you just let me explain, Jennifer look at me, you know I will never hurt you. It’s not as you think I swear” Kabir said sincerely
Jen couldn’t believe him, she vowed never to trust. How could he stay here and lie to her face like this. He thought she could be an easy target twice? Jen ran past him and down the stairs to the HR department. Ignoring him as he called her name.

Panting she asked for the expense form and tried to hurry Temi and her incessant lollipop suckling so she could get back to work. Work calmed her; the fifth floor was her oasis. Just then Halima walked in and after smiling politely in Jen’s direction, greeted Tola in that musical voice of hers. Jen needed to get out of here and fast. She cursed Temi’s chubby fingers as she stamped the form sluggishly and in her haste to leave Jennifer bumped into someone coming in. Jen knew it wasn’t Kabir from the moment of impact. Looking up it was Esosa, what was he doing here? Esosa smiled at her obvious annoyance as he steadied her shoulders and was about to make a snide comment when he caught sight of Halima. He stared at her and Jen without turning around said “She’s beautiful isn’t she”
“Yeah” Esosa responded. Then without looking at Jen said “but too much like a doll you know. It’s all good to stare, but I wouldn’t date her. What if she broke? I prefer my women a bit tougher around the edges and bigger too, that way I won’t lose them in a crowd or get mistaken for a paedophile”
Jen looked at Esosa “Thank you” she mouthed honestly
“No problem” he responded confused
“I have to be leaving now but your boss, the white lady, told me to give you this form and get it approved by HR. It’s the permission slip for the trip to Abuja next month; it coincides with an Architect conference or something so it has to be jointly approved.”
Esosa scanned the room confused. “Why are there so many flowers?” he asked

Jen took the paper with slightly shaking fingers and sure enough there was his name- Kabir Tijani- on the slip. They along with twelve others will be accommodated at the Sheraton Hotel and Towers for a weekend. Jen almost laughed, what kind of a cruel joke is this. She paused mid lip-read at that moment and looked up at Esosa; Jen wanted to say thank him for bringing it down and saving her a round trip up and down the stairs. She had caught him off guard, and he was staring at her. Jen remembered the look in his eyes from hazy dreams; she tried to place it and with a falling of a note remembered it as the same one she wore her first day at Holloway, as she and Kabir stood in the elevator. It was a look of utter joy, and it was in Esosa’s eyes….

Hurriedly excusing herself Jen laid the form on Temi’s desk and escaped up the stairs, it wasn’t until she was half-way up that she recalled his name- Esosa Oyakilhome-was on the list too.

It was going to be one hell of a weekend in Abuja…….

By Miss S.B


  1. First!
    HMMMMM my heart is breaking
    ill post a longer comment after am done readin this post 4 da 3rd tym *sigh*

  2. Im so sad...i knew this would happen, just not so soon....please when is the next installment o?

  3. coming soon my dearies.......patience!!!

  4. patience is a virtue I strive for.... the next installment has to come sooner.... lol

  5. The writing is really good
    Altho the whole heartbreak scene-hmm
    But I guess everyone reacts in different ways

    Moral of the story-no matter how mordern we say the world is-naija na naija-lol

  6. If i fail-I blame you... Excellent work though!

  7. fantastic! Almost cried with her....S.B is excellente! Next piece pls!