I watched Nkem in agony, day in, day out. The cloud of shame that hung over her head was so thick it was hard to miss anytime she stepped into a room. She started coming to church with us on sundays though and really started to get involved. Of course I know that just because a person was physically stepping into church every sunday, that didn’t make them born again over night but I was encouraged because she had taken a step at least.
I had been trying to get Nkem to attend church with me since I got back to Nigeria, but she would always joke it off with a firm ‘no’, so this was positive, to me at least. She called Nick the morning after she came to stay with us, I sat next to her as she dialed his number and held her as she hung up in tears. Of course Nick was angry, he was confused and it made no sense to him. Just like it was a shock to me, I could only imagine a fraction of how he must be feeling.
Although, my godson came to the house a lot and that excited me. I got to see him after work when Nkem would pick him up and bring him over for lunch. Then Nick would come and get him after he got off work. Somedays he slept over too. This new arrangement must be very strange to his little mind, but he took it with as much grace a four year old could exert.
My husband on the other hand was a myriad of emotions. He was impatient with Nkem’s constant crying, annoyed by my constant fussing over her and aggravated at Nick for ‘dumping’ his wife on us. Most nights when I knew he was about to unleash his pent-up emotions on me I would lie in bed quietly and fall asleep before he started. It worked every time.
On the other hand, things were going well at work, my colleagues were all amiable and my assistant was getting really good at making tea in the mornings. My boss was always busy, which was good for me because it gave me space to be creative.
Then came the little matter of the former VP Finance, my predecessor.
I was sitting in the office one day, trying to figure out a way to hedge against future interest rate increase when my administrative assistant phoned to advised me that the former VP Finance had come for a visit.
Awkward. I was curious though so I told her to let her in. I got up and straightened my skirt, tugged on my shirt and fiddled with my ring as she walked in.
She was hawt. I say it like that because just plain ‘hot’ wouldn’t cut it. This woman was…for lack of a better term, A woman! You know when you see a woman and you think..hawt-dayumm, thassawoman right durr! All of a sudden I was a lip-licking, hand rubbing, sleazy, wannabe player totally dogging this woman. All this was in my head ofcourse, best believe I was on point with my outward appearance, cool and calm was my name, reserved and classy was my game.
“Hello” I smiled at her, standing firmly behind my desk. Territorial things.
“Hi” She strode up to me with a warm smile and shook my hand. This threw me off, I was expecting a sassy, in yo face kind of attitude from her, with all those good looks, I thought she would be arrogant.
“My name’s Lase, or Mrs Edobor, as some call me” She smiled again
“Mrs Edobor” I acknowledged her name, it sounded familiar, but I pushed the thought away from my mind “what can I do for you?”
“‘I’m sorry, I know this is awkward, didn’t Mr Aliu fill you in?” That would be my boss, and ofcourse he did no such thing.
“Right. He’s always so busy’ She laughed “I was asked to come in when I had the tine, to do a hand-over thing for you, I know at this point there’s probably no need, seeing as you’ve been here for..what is it..a week now?”
“A week” I nodded
“Well, if you have any questions I am here and willing to answer them. I emailed Aliu to inform him of my arrival today and also to send me your e-mail so that I could let you know..but of course, he didn’t reply” She laughed nervously, so I joined her to put her at ease
“It’s okay. That’s fine. I did have a few questions but I was just going to figure things out on my own, but this is great! Thanks for coming in and thanks for being so organized and making it easy for me to follow up” I enthused, motioning for her to take a seat while I sat down.
“you’ve really touched this place up” She looked around the office, a hint of approval on her face.
“nah..just personalized it a little bit” I laughed, brushing off the compliment. I was modest, even though on the inside I was squealing gleefully, proud that she noticed my interior decorating skills.
I liked her, she was kind and patient with me, going through her work and tying up loose ends that I had almost given up on. I began to understand her documentation form and other things started to make sense to me. I found that she was very practical and straight to the point which was good for me and put me at ease around her. Soon we were laughing together and making busy-boss jokes off Aliu. She was a lovely woman and I wanted to touch her hair and discuss hair products, clothing stores and make-up with her. I was dying to find out her secret, but it was obvious she was only interested in talking shop.
We went through some of the questions I had, which really took a load off my shoulders because I was starting to panic, thinking of how I would figure some things out. I wondered why she didn’t just pass on information to her assistant, since all he knew was how to get me tea or coffee when I needed it. That wasn’t his only job description, was it?
As soon as I thought it, my brain did a mental zone out and zone in and all I caught was
“…don’t trust anybody” She said it so adamantly and matter-of-factedly, I had to wonder what she was talking about
“Sorry? I didn’t catch..” I started saying
She giggled nervously “Don’t mind me, I was just saying in this industry you never know who you can trust, you know?”
“that’s so true” I agreed, with the way the country was going, anything to do with finance was a very touchy area
She looked around the office again and I caught the longing in her face, like she missed the office. I could almost see her mind as she replaced my things with her things from before. Maybe a plant here, her coat there..I started to wonder why she left the company. Such a high paying, high powered position was the envy of many in the city, heck, the whole of Nigeria, maybe even the whole continent..maybe.
“Mrs Edobor..do you mind me asking..” I dared myself “why you resigned? so far I have seen nothing wrong with the position and you seemed to be doing so well too, the boss talks about you like he almost worships the ground you stand on, the co-workers all respect you..I just don’t understand..” fearing I had over-stepped my boundaries, I had to stop and apologize.
“No don’t worry” She smiled and looked down for a while, I noticed she started playing with the ring on her ring-finger, finally she looked up and looked at me blankly
“I had to go home” she shrugged, turning up one corner of her mouth “I needed to be at home it turns out, because even though you can’t trust those here in the industry, you still can’t trust those there at home too”
This was getting personal, I shifted uncomfortably in my seat. I hardly knew the woman after all..
Feeling like I forced her to speak I started to say “Mrs Edobor, you don’t have to..”
Then it hit me like a slap in the face, my stomach lurched and my palms were sweaty. The name that was so familiar before, came back to me full force, this time with a face. Edobor! Felix Edobor? What??
She was still talking, but I had to know,
“Are you, are you married to Felix Edobor, by any chance? Ms?”
She stopped “y-yes, do you know my husband?” oh boy, what did I not know
“uhh..y-yes” it was my turn to stutter “he’s, he’s my husband’s partner, at the firm” How come I never met her before?
“really? you’re…oh!!” She covered her mouth with her well manicured hands, I noticed. “oh…” she closed her eyes for a bit
We were both shocked but for different reasons, I couldn’t imagine her reason, but I sure as heck knew mine!
She looked embarrassed all of a sudden, and began to look around for her bag. I watched her clear her throat and stagger up, off the chair as if it had become molten lava all of a sudden
“well um..” she gathered herself and picked up her bag “I should go”
“why? is everything okay” I was curious at her behaviour, did she know that Nkem was my friend?
I got up too and walked around to the other side of the desk, feeling concerned, curious and mildly excited at the same time
“would you like some water? why don’t you stay and let’s get to know each other more? I mean our husbands are partners” I smiled, trying to lighten up the suddenly tense atmosphere
“no..I should go” She insisted “It was nice to meet you, finally” She pulled her face into a smile that actually came off as a grimace
“well..okay, if you’re sure” I grinned at her, feeling disappointed that she didn’t want to stay “please visit me anytime though” I said hopefully “and thank you so so much for all of your help, you have no idea how much time you have saved me” I smiled again, hoping she would change her mind
“n-no problem” She forced another her smile, as she reached for the door handle itching to leave “ok goodbye!” She yanked the door open “congratulations and goodluck on the position again!”
By the time I started saying “thanks” she was already out, fast-walking down the hallway like it was a marathon
“Well..” I sighed, wishing she had stayed. I closed the office door and stood at the centre of the office for a good while sighing and replaying the encounter over and over in my head. How come I’m just finding out about her? Why had I never met her? ’tis all strange
Isn’t it funny how life starts to piece things together when something comes up? I would have started clapping my hands and holding my head in classic nollywood style but when I saw the pile of work sitting at my desk, I changed my mind.