1. THE ENCOUNTER
Sandie knew he was the one. She was a million percent sure about that. The tiny scar on his right arm proved it. His head was still as round as ever, like an orange, with healthy-looking short black hair on it. His complexion had darkened a bit, now chocolate-brown and he now had a short beard on his chin. He still had those lines on his forehead and those light blue eyes which she wished would now meet with her searching eyes.
The young man was wearing a brown short-sleeved senator suit; the scar was just before his wrist, so she could clearly see her handiwork from where she sat behind the counter; he’d raised his right hand to briefly stroke his beard. The wound had healed, of course. That was almost eight years ago; the memory of the incident was still fresh in her head, and she had relished it with evil content. There were three more persons on her queue before it would get to the young man’s turn.
Sandie was getting tired of her banking job. She had been working behind the counter for more than three years now, and desired a promotion. But it wasn’t forthcoming, maybe she wasn’t working hard enough or didn’t have the right aura for a higher position. She was even fortunate to not have been sacked during the downsizing of the bank last year, reasons still unknown to her. Maybe it was her credentials? She had a HND certificate in Business Administration, but that shouldn’t have been the reason since a colleague with a Master’s degree was also fired.
Or, maybe it was her powers? Sandie didn’t want to have anything to do with them, not anymore. They were evil. She had attended a church vigil last week Friday, in which she was convicted. Her powers belonged to the devil, who was a taskmaster and who would destroy you after using you, the preacher had said. She had opted to give her life to Christ after the preacher passionately preached about salvation. It had prompted her to contact Mammy, her coven leader, yesterday over the phone.
“Mammy, I want out,” she’d bluntly told her.
“It’s not possible, Sandie. We’re in this forever. You become a witch, you die as one.”
“That’s not true, Mammy. I refuse to believe that.”
“You don’t have to believe that. I don’t have to tell you the repercussions of acting otherwise.”
Mammy had sounded gentle, as she naturally was, but Sandie wouldn’t be fooled into believing she could get out just like that. There would surely be a clash when she would finally perfect her plans of leaving. It was only but a matter of time.
But she loved those powers. The ability to influence human behaviours and activities by using her eyes and hands was enthralling. However, hers had been weakening, having suffered serious injuries ten years ago at the hands of a teenage boy. She could only manage to make her powers work once in a blue moon.
“Thank you for banking with us,” Sandie said to the customer she’d just finished attending to.
“Thank you,” the woman said as she left the counter.
“Next person!” She called.
After a few seconds, she was met by an old man who had approached the counter. His large spectacles reminded her of her late father’s. He wanted to withdraw some money with his booklet.
“Papa, you didn’t fill it correctly,” she told the old man, showing him where he’d made a mistake.
“Biko, do this thing give me. I need this money nanana,” he was sounding too impatient for his old age.
“You’ll be paid, Daddy. But you have to do the necessary thing correctly, for official purposes,” Sandie explained.
“What’s the matter there now?” Someone on the queue asked. He walked over to the counter, demanding to know why the queue had slowed down unlike before. It was the young man Sandie had earlier recognised.
“Could you please help him fill his slip correctly?” Sandie requested of the young man.
They shifted to a corner on the counter, and the young man guided the old man on the right thing to do. Sandie’s eyes finally met his for a moment and he withdrew his glare. She attended to the next person on the queue, then the old man after he’d presented the correctly filled withdrawal slip.
Then it was the young man’s turn. Sandie admired the way he squared his shoulders as he approached the counter. She looked at him fixedly and smiled.
“Hello sir, welcome to Express Bank,” the woman at the counter said to Obed as he approached it.
He nodded. “Thank you.”
Obed placed the money and teller he was holding on the counter, briefly observing the surroundings. The other cashier beside the woman attending to him yawned in an unladylike manner and continued what she was doing, not bothering who was looking at her. The people in her queue had complained just before it got to his turn. She was obviously the lazy type, the type of which most bank customers disliked being attended to by such.
He returned his gaze at the cashier in front of him, taking in another deep breath of the conditioned air. She was looking intently at him, smiling as their eyes met.
“Your face looks familiar, I think I know you somewhere,” the woman said, smiling.
Obed ruffled his brow. He looked at the name tag on the counter. Sandie. He wondered how and where he had ever met someone with that name.
“I don’t think I know you anywhere except here and now.”
“No, we haven’t really met. Like, in person.”
“OK. So? Where or how did you know me?”
“Do you have an account with us?” She instead asked, placing the currency notes he was depositing on the counting machine.
Obed felt this cashier was just another of those bank workers who were desperate to get customers for their banks, in order to meet a target. Some could go to any length, including getting laid.
“No. I just came to make a deposit. This is even my first time in this branch. I don’t base here.”
“OK. Here you go,” she said, handing him the customer’s copy of the deposit slip. “Thank you for banking with us.”
Obed took the teller and left the counter, waving shortly at the woman. Just then, he received a call. It was from Ifeoma.
“Hello, Oby. Thanks, I just got the alert. I love you. Mmuah!” There was a kiss at the other end of the line.
“I’m still inside the banking hall, I’ll call you back. On my way out now.”
Obed caught the stern eyes of a security guard standing close to the entrance door. The next thing he should hear was, “Oga, you don’t make calls inside the bank!” But he wasn’t making a call, he was rather taking one; a point he could use to counter the elderly security guard if he apprehended him. But Obed knew the security guard wouldn’t. He was well dressed and looked rich, something that would make many security guards defer to him despite his young age, most especially if you gave them a tip or two. He was just twenty-six.
Obed ended the call and walked out of the banking hall into the car park. He opened the automatic locks to his car and sat behind the steering, leaving the door slightly open. It was time to make some calls. He got out his cellphone and dialled a number.
“Hello, good afternoon sir.”
“I got a call from Mrs. Edet. Are you not through with her clothes?”
The girl’s voice at the other end of the line lowered its tone, “Er… Not yet, sir.”
“Why haven’t you? I told you I don’t like laziness in my workers. It’s getting to two weeks now, isn’t it? And that order was supposed to be ready in a week.”
“I’m almost done, sir. Just that there is no light to iron the clothes, and the generator developed issues just after you left. Okoro is still working on it.”
“Was it not just two days ago that I left Enugu, eh? If there’s no light, can’t you take it somewhere else and finish the job?”
“Sir, I don’t have money to pay for it.”
“What nonsense! Am I not paying you?”
“Mmm… Sir… Yes… But…” The girl was now grumbling.
“You better get Mrs. Edet’s job ready by tomorrow. No stories!”
Obed angrily cut the call. Customer satisfaction was key to your continued success in business, some non-enterprising persons like the girl Chinyere didn’t seem to understand that. She was one of the seamstresses working under him. He had picked her just about three months ago because she had been recommended by his ex-girlfriend, Mercy. That was when he’d started ObyFash Ventures, immediately after completing the National Youth Service Corps scheme.
Chinyere was Mercy’s younger sister who had just graduated from a tailoring school and needed a job badly to make ends meet. He had broken up with Mercy two months ago after he’d caught her cheating on him with a fellow youth corp member, just before their final Passing Out Parade. They’d served together in Enugu state, and he’d met her at the orientation camp. Fortunately, they’d been posted to the same Place of Primary Assignment, and their relationship had grown as a result.
Obed’s phone was now ringing. It was from Mercy; he still had her number despite now dating Ifeoma since last month. He ignored the call. It came again, he hesitated for a while and then picked it up.
“Oby, how are you?”
“You should know I’m fine.”
“Ah-ah, why are you sounding like this na?”
“You ignored my first call.”
“I was busy when it came.”
“See, Mercy. I’m still a bit busy sorting things out now. Things with my life. I’ve told you it’s over between us.”
“It was NYSC that brought us together. Thank God for it. But NYSC is over, and I think we’re over too.”
“But, Oby… I told you I was sorry about what happened. I’m sorry still. It was a silly mistake on my part, and he went overboard. Please…”
Obed was silent.
“Are you that hard-hearted, Oby? Can’t you just forgive and forget?”
“There’s nothing to forgive, there’s nothing to forget.”
“If you don’t want me back, I can understand. But please, don’t have negative feelings for me. I still love you as a friend.”
“OK. I loved you too.”
Mercy cut the call. Obed was relieved. Why was she even wanting to come back now, eh? Was it because he’d “suddenly” become richer since their breakup? His “new” Toyota Camry, which although he’d bought as second-hand last month, was some sort of proof, wasn’t it? “If that’s the case, then away with you bitch! Motherfucker! Gold-digger!” He mouthed.
Then he dialled Ifeoma, his current girlfriend. They’d got along quite well, but he was yet to really get to know her. One month perhaps wasn’t enough to get real close with someone.
“How’s PH? When are you coming back to Enugu?” Ifeoma asked.
“Soon, dear. Soon. Maybe tomorrow or next. I’m thinking of the next bank to try for the loan.”
“I don’t know about my bank, but have you tried them, Express Bank? Maybe you should.”
“Not yet. Yeah, maybe I should.”
Just then, Obed noticed the cashier who had attended to him inside the banking hall. She was coming out of the bank, and was probably walking towards him. What could she possibly want from him this time?
“Baby, I’ll call you later, OK? Take care.”
He ended the call.
Sandie finished attending to the last person on her queue. She whispered to her colleague next to her.
“Nne, you want to buy something? I need to go get something for lunch before resuming.”
“No, not yet. Don’t worry, I’ll cover for you,” Nnenna whispered back.
“You’re sure you’re not hungry. Weren’t you the person yawning uncontrollably few minutes ago?” Sandie teased.
“My dear, I was just feeling sleepy. You should go now before another customer comes… Ehen, see one coming. Shebi I told you?”
Sandie quickly got up and left just before the customer approached the counter. She walked into the banking hall and then went outside through the front door. She was on her way to Bebe’s Foods, a popular canteen nearby which she frequented.
On stepping outside the entrance porch, she started walking the paved ground towards the gate. A red Toyota Camry car was parked close to the gate with its door slightly open. There was somebody at the driver’s seat, apparently on a phone call. She was surprised when it turned out to be the young man who had deposited Twenty Thousand Naira into a lady’s bank account not too long ago. He was still around? Why? She wondered. He turned to look at her as she was approaching, also perhaps ending the phone call.
“Hey! Mr. Obed?” She waved at him, getting closer to his car.
He waved back. “You know my name too?” He was visibly stunned.
“Come on. Didn’t you write your name as the depositor?”
“Oh! You’ve been stalking me?”
“Haha! Not at all. I have a strong memory, perhaps.” She tried to get their eyes lock for a few more seconds but couldn’t, as the young man was looking set to drive off.
“I see,” Obed said. “So, you’re on a break now?”
“Yes, just want to get lunch nearby.”
“Get in. Let me drive you to the place. No strings attached,” he said, sounding like the white knight she’d known him to be. Had her charm just worked?
“Ah-ah, it’s not far na. I’ll just walk.”
“No, I mean it. Please get in.”
Sandie obliged his request. Obed drove out of the bank premises.
“To the right,” Sandie instructed. “It’s just… Here. I told you, it’s a really short distance.”
“It doesn’t matter. Glad I made someone happy today.”
“Thank you, Mr. Obed.”
“You’re welcome, banker Sandie.”
“Just Sandie, please.”
“Just Obed, please.”
Sandie chuckled. “Oh! I’m sure you’re interesting to be with.”
“Please, before you go…” Obed fumbled for the pigeonhole and brought out a piece of paper. “My business card. Would love to hear from you soon.”
“There’s no problem, I’ll try.”
Sandie gently shut the door as she got out of the car. She waved at Obed once again, and he reciprocated.
PS: This is the first chapter of a short story. What do you think?