Francesca stood by the gates of the school and watched Adiaghakpan walk into the school building before she turned around to leave the premesis. It saddened her that she had to subject her daughter to the crazy yellow rickety bus transition and yet there was nothing she could do. Her salary wasn’t enough to afford a taxi five days a week even if she were given a tip every month. Her boss, although a semi slave driver was a kind woman and her daughter Ms Beeba never really talked to her except the usual requests and greetings and she was fine with that.
As she identified herself at the massive entrance gate, one of the two uniformed security men gave her an envelope with her name written across and she waited to read it the minute she walked into the house with her own key. It was a note from her boss’s daughter. Francesca folded the note and replaced it back in its envelope before folding it in half and dropping it in her hand bag that was still slung across her chest. Ms Beeba had used the word ‘please’ three times and that got her thinking that Ms Beeba must really need her for something important.
He hated Monday, it was the worst working day for him, not to mention his blasted cell phone that had been ringing since he walked into his office. Fifteen missed calls and more was to come. Switch the phone off is what Jide would say, but he didn’t see the point in doing that.
‘She’s going to keep calling and will not stop until you either pick up the phone or switch the bloody thing off.’ His business partner and bestfriend Jide Oluwaseun laughed.
Phillip Williams sighed, watching the cell phone buzz soundlessly on his big black desk. ‘I really have nothing to say to her and I am not ready for any long term thing right now and said the same thing to her two days ago. Why can’t she just get that?’
‘You are not ready for a long term thing with her,’ Jide said, using his fingers to quote his sentence as he uncrossed his legs and stood up from the swivel chair.
‘JD, you have met her so you understand my plight. I sent her a fat cheque two weeks ago and she’s asked for more .’ He took over the seat Jide just vacated, opening one of the drawers to retrieve a file.
‘You dated her all of what? Three months? You my friend are way too generous.’ Jide shook his head, his hands going into the pockets of his black stripped pants.
‘Six months really and generousity has nothing whatsoever to do with it. Sure I never promised her nothing, but she always hinted on how she was loosing out on suitors and marriage proposal just to be with me. She is too much trouble, I couldn’t take her constant tantrums and mood swings. Gosh, I need a woman with less baggage than a travelling circus.’ Phillip closed the file he had been flipping through while talking. He had scheduled a board meeting earlier in the week and now had less than a few hours prep time before the meeting began. ‘How did it go at Oando?’
‘Very good actually. Your secretary should have a copy ready for you.’
‘Okay great. I spoke to Babatunde and he thinks the merger deal is a great idea too, just have to pitch a better sale is all.’ Phillip said.
‘Of course he would! He gets a promotion if it happens and I can’t say I blame him.’ Jide tsked loudly and turned to leave. ‘Oh by the way, Poopola called and is requesting a very private audience with you.’
‘Beats me.’ Jide shrugged. ‘Anyway, see you later.’ He moved to the door and almost bumped into Ekanem Offiong.
‘Excuse me sir, I didn’t see you.’ She said, hovering at the entrance.
‘Not with all these files and books.’ He tried to take them from her but she flinched and moved away from him as if his touch ignited imaginary flames around her. As she moved into the office, he caught Phillip’s eyes and used his fingers to demonstrate the crazy sign before leaving finally.
‘Good morning sir.’ Ekanem gently laid her load on his table and handed over the top file to him. ‘Mr Poopola would be here soon. I stopped by your home this morning and ran a few errands for Jake. I’m sorry I got here late…’
‘Ekanem, you work for me not my brother and I have my own ride, you don’t need to come to my home daily, I told you so. Check the shelf behind you and get me the only green folder there, thanks.’ Phillip became all business and tried to forget his hatred for the blasted day of the week.
A few minutes later, Phillip watched as Poopola walked into his office, a pack of cigarette and what seemed like his car key ring in his left hand.
‘I want to arrange and change a few things.’ He took the seat Phillip offered him which was about the only other chair. Phillip buzzed Ekanem who came in swiftly with a black tray that held coffee. As she placed one cup in front of each man, Phillip pulled out one of the files she had given him.
‘Okay tell me what you need…’ Phillip began.
‘It’s about the little girl.’ He said, completely shocking Phillip who wasn’t expecting that at all.
‘But its been two years since you opened her file and if I remember correctly, you took the last copy of the…’
‘Yes, yes I know I was there right? Well I have changed my mind.’ For effect on his seriousness, he leaned forward. ‘I want to lay claim on her.’ He said, making the child seem like a piece of furniture. Phillip studied the billionare in all his traditional glory; the matching shirt and pants in a patterned cotton fabric.
‘Her mother wouldn’t dare to challenge me especially after she hears what I have planned for the child.’ He answered, interrupting Phillp again.
‘Your wife?’ He asked, his left hand flat and protective over the slim file. Poopola just shrugged in a non chalant manner that made him easily disliked if you didn’t know him.
‘She gets everything she wants so she would not dare give me trouble on this. After all she’s the one who said no to having kids.’ Poopola said, causing Phillip to clear his throat and send Ekanem away. He listened to his client’s plan and promised to get back to him as soon as he was done. After Poopola left, Phillip sighed heavily as he went through the file again. Oh he knew Poopola had no kids with his wife. It was no state secret and so far he had seemed non chalant about the whole kids issue. What had happened to make him change his mind? His marriage was almost nine years and he had never given any indication that he wanted kids. According to Poopola, it was the reason he married his wife: they had both never wanted kids. This surprised him when Poopola had said it. His five years in Nigeria made him aware of the strong religious and traditional beliefs the people had faith in and multiplying was one of them.
He picked up his phone and buzzed Jide. ‘I need to pay Emelia’s mother a very short visit.’ He said the minute Jide picked.
‘We have got people for that Phil. You know how this works now eh? Rival clients and all that.’ Jide replied after a short pause.
‘Yes but you of all people know how this particular one has been eating at me ever since it got to my table.’ He answered, knowing still that Jide was right.
‘And I have always said it’s none of your business. If he wants custody of the child, it is his right as her biological father o. There is nothing anyone can do about. Kids get abandoned all the time by their parents. It is not right but hey, shit happens.’
‘I saw her.’ Phillip answered almost immediately, causing Jide to sigh heavily.
Egypt stood by the door of her bedroom and watched as Segun picked out his belongings from the huge mirrored closet. For her, it was hard to understand how someone could switch off strong feelings in a flash. What had she done wrong? You do not claim to love someone in one day and the next beat dump them. Things should not have to work like that at all no matter how unfair people claimed life was. She jerked off her thoughts when she saw him reach for the tv cable, intending to plug it off the wall. ‘What are you doing?’ She moved in to stand near the television.
‘It’s mine. You said you got it for me….’ He replied, half bent in the process of lifting the tv off the stand. Egypt gave a short laugh albiet an angry one.
‘You didn’t think I bought it in your name did you? I may have been stupid enough to give you raw cash or pay for your clothes and things only you can use. But come on, seriously Segun, this baby?’ She gently pulled his hands away and plugged the cable back into the wall. ‘Next thing I know, you would think the Toyota is in your name too.’ She shook her head. ‘Now please leave.’ She straightened up from her stoop.
‘The car isn’t mine?’ Segun asked and only felt stupid after the words fell out of his mouth.
‘GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!’ Egypt yelled, pointing to the door. Segun lingered a bit before walking out the door which she banged shut and fell to the ground crying, her head in her hands as her braids fell out of the scrunchie she had used to hold it in a pony tail.
Ekanem watched as Jide walked out of the building that held her office. Her heartbeat accelerated as he moved closer to where his car was parked a few metres from hers at the car park. His tall dark frame intrigued her and she could almost feel her heart in her bare hands. His jaw was set like he was a medieval warrior and his bone structure was just fit and right for said warrior. She watched the smooth way he got into his car and stayed put until he drove away.Her hands sweaty, she took a deep breath and went to her favorite fantasy world where she was Mrs Oluwaseun and they had three beautiful kids and lived in a huge white painted house with a garden and a swimming pool and he loved her and couldn’t stop touching her. A girl could dream could she not? Kathie Holmes did and look where her dreams landed her, as Mrs Tom Cruise.
Francesca sat down straight on the sofa as Ms Beeba slowly moved back and forth around the centre piece furniture which held one glass vase of artificial red rose flowers. She was yet to say anything that made sense. All Francesca could understand so far was that the woman needed her assistance.
‘You know, I leave here in seventy minutes to pick my child up from school Ms Beeba.’ She said, following the woman’s movement. They had been like this for almost thirty minutes and Francesca was beginning to think that maybe the woman needed the impossible from her.
Beeba quickly sat down beside Francesca. ‘Sorry, I’m just a bit nervous.’ She touched Francesca’s arm gently before relaxing. ‘Okay I need to ask you a favor and yes you will be paid. I don’t want just anyone and since you have worked for my mother for a year now I thought I should ask you…well just hear me out ok?’
Francesca nodded and began thinking that maybe she was right in assuming the impossible was about to be demanded of her. She told herself mentaly that the answer no was going to be very easy.
‘Okay, I talked with mother already so she says as long as you are okay with this then it is fine by her.’ She heaved lightly. ‘My son is coming home next month and I was wondering if maybe you would consider taking a nanny job. I could get Shola to renovate the two room apartment behind the building for you and your child, feeding is inclusive and I will go out next week to make a down payment on a mini van which you can drive if you know how. Whatever my mother is paying still stands, I will pay you a different salary.’ Beeba held her breath waiting for Francesca’s response. Ever since her return home to find her mother living in her home with Francesca as a house maid, she had studied the younger woman and so far been impressed by her efficiency even when mother was impossibly annoying. And her being a mother too was an added bonus.
Francesca asked the first question that came to her head. ‘Why do you need a nanny?’ It may seem like a question that was way out of line but it was an apt one. Ms Beeba wasn’t working neither did she own any businesses or at least it did not seem like she did so what could possibly be her reason for needing a nanny.
‘That’s a fair question. Okay, he isn’t exactly what you would call a normal baby and can be very tiring to look after. I cannot do it alone and I can’t very well expect my mother to help me daily. Just meet him and spend a few days trying it out. I promise I won’t hold it against you if you cannot deal with him.’ She named a sum that had Francesca almost gagging, making her facial expression show disgust instead of shock.
‘Okay fine I will double it.’ Beeba replied quickly. Francesca was in shock and speechless for a few minutes. Things like this never happened to her. In one day she was getting a job offer that included a house a car and a salary that was enough to improve her daughter’s life?’ There is a God up there and he sure liked her a lot. Is what she was thinking to herself.
As she opened the door to leave a few minutes later, she noticed Ms Beeba’s friend Mrs January coming up the short stairs that lead to the entrance door of the house. Not that she hated the woman, she just didn’t understand why the woman looked down at her with strange expressions everytime she visited and saw Francesca. It was like that all the time and for the life of her, Francesca had no idea why.