The ‘wall of fame’ I suggested to Daniel during my pitch was the first thing up. I got a carpenter to build a beautiful wall hanging which we could decorate with pictures and artworks depicting the company’s efforts over the years. The victories and awards were put up, the many buildings that have passed through the company, and every other milestone they reached which was worthwhile.
By the time we were done with that, we moved on to the wall hangings. I got a beautiful chandelier to show off the beauty of the reception, and some lovely fabric I can drape on the wall. When the chandelier was up, the paintings and artworks hung, and the fabrics draped artfully, the final picture came out really beautiful.
Close of the day came sooner than I expected. Being hard at work, I didn’t know the time was so far spent. I packed up my stuff, paid my workers their daily wage, and prepared to go home for a well-deserved rest.
As I stepped out of the front entrance, I heard someone call my name. It was Udi, Daniel’s secretary.
“What’s up, Udi?”
“Daniel said I should send you up on my way out. Thank God I caught you before you left.”
“He said I should come up? What for?”
“I don’t know.” she shrugged. “I’m headed out to the karaoke bar. I’ll see you there, right?”
I looked at her bright eyes. It’s obvious she’s excited about the outing. “I don’t think so. I’m so tired, I just want to get home and crash.”
“Okay. You’ve been working very hard all day. Lovely job at the reception.”
“Thanks. Let me see what Daniel wants.”
“Okay. Catch you later.”
I went back into the building once more and traced my way back to the elevator. I pressed the number of his office floor, and got into the car. It moved up smoothly and I was in front of his office few seconds later. I knocked and entered.
He was seated on the settee, watching me as I came into the room. His eyes on me as I walked towards him.
“You sent for me?” he was too relaxed for my peace of mind.
“Yes, Ella. Please have a seat.”
I sat and looked at him, waiting for him to tell me why he needed to see me.
“You were going to sneak away?”
“Sneak away? Why would I do that?”
“You forgot our deal?”
I looked at him, trying to figure out what he was talking about. I was so tired, I couldn’t think straight. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Daniel.” I frowned.
“You’ve been working too hard.” He stared at me closely.
I shrugged. “I just need a few hours of rest.”
He nodded. “Would you like to take something? A drink?”
“No, I’m fine. I just want to go home. What were you talking about just now?”
“Our plans to celebrate this beautiful office at the karaoke bar?”
“Yes, that.” He laughed. “I can see you’re not up for it though. You look too worn out for a party.”
“I actually thought you were talking of something else. Udi told me she was headed there when I saw her outside.”
“Yeah. I’ll catch up with them later.”
“I’m sorry I can’t go with you all. I’m not fit company for anyone tonight.”
“No, you’re not.” He laughed. “It’s okay though, there’s always a next time.”
I smiled. “Sure.”
“Can I drop you off?”
“No, I came with my car.”
He looked at me, nodded, and shifted forward in his seat. He took both my hands between his before I knew what he wanted to do. He squeezed my hands.
“Ella, I’m trying so hard to respect your decision here but there’s only so much you can ask of me. I want you in my life, and I don’t know why you’re being reluctant. I know you like me as much as I like you. We spent one day together and it was one of the best days of my life. Why are you holding yourself back?”
I didn’t know what to say. I am not in the proper frame of mind to deal with this now and I think he knows it, that’s why he ambushed me this way. I stared at our joined hands, looked up to his face, and the intensity I read there scared me. I really need to come clean to this guy.
“Daniel, you don’t know anything about me. If you hear my story, I’m sure you’ll think twice about giving your heart to me.”
“Then tell me and let me make that decision. Don’t make the decision for me.”
“It’s not a pretty one, Daniel. I’ve not even told Adelaide any of this, that’s how reluctant I am to share it.”
“It can’t be that bad, Ella.”
I smiled. “You don’t know the half of it.”
He squeezed my hands. “Tell me.”
I made my decision then. Better to face the rejection now before feelings got too tangled to unknot. I forgot that I was tired, I forgot that I needed to rest more than anything. All my energy, my focus was on Daniel at that point.
“I will.” I replied.
I removed my hands from his, I needed a clear head for this and his palm rubbing my knuckles would not suffice. I leaned back, prepared to tell it all. As I opened my mouth to speak, my phone rang. I looked at the screen to check the caller and my heart stuttered to a stop. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
Daniel must have been alarmed by the look on my face because he leaned towards me and grabbed my hands again. “What is it? What is the matter, Ella? Who is calling you?” he asked alarmingly.
I looked at his face dazedly, I could hardly draw a full breath. “My mother.” I whispered.
I could see the confusion as it spread all over his face. He is probably wondering why a call from my mum should make me speechless. He didn’t know the story, he didn’t know that I have not spoken with my mum for almost a year now. He did not know the bitter words we spoke to each other the last time we had a conversation, he didn’t know the hurt I feel in my heart that my mum rejected me during my lowest time. He does not know what it means to see her number flash on my screen.
I shut my eyes, opened them again and pressed the green button to receive the call. “Hello, mother.”
Daniel stood up and went out to the balcony overlooking the street. He probably did so to give me some privacy. I was grateful to him for that small concession.
I can’t believe my mum is calling after almost a year of not speaking. What does she want now?
“Ella, where are you?” she asked non too graciously.
“I’m in Lagos, mother.” I can’t remember the last time I called her, ‘mum’. It’s been ‘mother’ for as long as I can remember.
“Lagos, ehn? So you cannot call your mother all this while, ehn? You have no respect for me at all.”
“Mother, we didn’t exactly part on amicable terms. The last time we spoke, you said you never wanted to see my face again.”
“And I still don’t want to see your face.” she snapped. “Not when you insist on prostituting yourself to every man in this world. That’s why you refused to stay in your marriage with that fine Tony. Bayo, I could understand, I never trusted him anyway; you can never trust Yoruba boys but Tony was different, he was the epitome of a great husband.”
“Mother, Tony was knocking me around.”
“So what? Your father knocked me around a time or two too. Did you see me pack my bags? Marriage is about sacrifices.”
“Not when I was covered with bruises every day.” I sighed. It’s the same old story with my mother. Nothing ever changes.
“You are just a child. You don’t understand what marriage is about at all. You are just playing at it.” She continued in a tone oozing with self-righteousness.
I was tired of her usual tirade. I wish she will just get to the point of her call. Or maybe this was it. We had not spoken for almost a year, and the first time she calls me, she badgers me with hurtful words. I stared at Daniel’s back as he leaned on the balcony railing.
“Mother,” I cut in as she went on. “Why did you call me?”
She sniffed. “I called to ask you why you have not spoken to anyone in your family for almost a year.”
“Because my family doesn’t inspire such devotion in me, mother. I don’t see why I should keep in touch with people who don’t understand me, or even help me when I was in trouble.”
She was silent for some moments. I’ve never known my mother to not have a ready come-back at any time. Her short silence threw me. Did I finally get through to her?
“Mother? Are you there?”
“Yes o. So you think we are not there for you, abi?”
“Mother, you just finished giving me the riot act now. After I have explained to you many times why I had to leave Tony, I believe if you really care, you’ll at least see the situation from my own perspective.”
“Hmm, just get your act together because me I want grandchildren o.”
And, that is the crux of the matter.
“And make sure you call your father and sister too.”
“Okay, mother.” My sister, Sidi, and I were close at one time. Not so much now.
“And call me from time to time if you don’t want me to come to that Lagos and drag you home by your ears.”
I almost smiled. I know she would do exactly as she threatened. “Yes, mother.”
“Okay o, bye.” She hung up before I could reply.
I sighed and laid my head on the back of the chair. Talking with my mother always drained me. I thought back to the last time I spoke with Sidi. I had been so angry I almost spit in her face. I don’t remember when our relationship deteriorated to that extent but I remember it started changing when I decided to leave Bayo. She felt I should have told her we were having problems. She thought if I had talked about it, it would have made it better. Naturally, I disagreed.
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