“The Deputy MD sir.” Halima Adebayo, the Head of HR answered fearfully. “He kind of gave us the proposal, he said that the new proposal had been approved by you.”
“How can the Deputy MD tell you your job?” Lanre asked irritably.
“Well he didn’t exactly give us the proposal…”
“He gave you the proposal, he didn’t give you the proposal. Which is it Halima?”
Halima sighed. “He called me into his office and said that the proposal from Brighton Consulting wasn’t going to be in the company’s interest. That it would be too expensive and that there was no guarantee that the plan would actually work. He told me to modify it.”
“And you didn’t think that you should tell someone?”
Halima hesitated. “Who would I report the Deputy MD to?”
“I am his boss.”
Halima looked away, this American-oriented man didn’t understand how things were done in Nigeria. “Sorry sir.”
“You can leave my office.”
“I’m sorry sir,” Halima replied fearfully. She couldn’t afford to lose her job.
“Halima, leave my office.” Lanre said, rising from his chair and going to the window.
How could one fire the deputy MD who was obviously more respected than he? How would he explain it to his father who had put him in the position? How would the staff respond to it?
Jumoke was daydreaming, tapping unconsciously at her keyboard. The dinner with Derick had been better than she had imagined. Not only had they had a delicious meal, he had made her laugh endlessly and she couldn’t remember the last time she had laughed that hard and long. He had been the perfect gentleman, saying the right things and not asking for too much.
Hope had been elated when she returned with a bowl of her favorite ice cream courtesy of Derick. She and Gloria had promptly debriefed her as soon as she was seated, they gushed and stared at her in excitement. Derick had called her later that night to see if she had settled in and to thank her for agreeing to the date.
“Hopefully we’ll do this again.” he had said.
She’d cleared her throat and mumbled a breathy “yes”.
Jumoke had slept with a smile on her face and woken up feeling joyful. As much as she tried to contain her excitement so that she could maintain her usual defensiveness, she couldn’t stop herself from smiling unconsciously or sighing happily.
Her table phone rang.
“Hello!” she answered chirpily.
“Did you just win the lottery?”
Jumoke sagged her shoulders, her excitement flowed out of her. “Why are you calling me Lanre?”
“You still work for me…”
“What can I do for you, boss?”
Lanre was momentarily silent, he wasn’t sure how she would take his next words. “I need your help…”
“I’ve found out who was behind the wrong proposal and I don’t know what to do about him…”
“Why are you talking to me about this? It’s entirely up to you what you do about it.”
“I know but I… I feel confused… I want to know I’m doing the right thing.”
“I ask you again, why are you talking to me about this? I’m not your friend or business partner…”
“Please Jumoke, I’m asking for old time’s sake…”
“Old time’s sake? Old time’s sake?! Lanre are you…?” She exhaled sharply in frustration. “Why are you calling me this morning for goodness sake? Why can’t you leave me alone? I intend to do my work and forget about you. I intend to carry on exactly as I have all these years, as if you don’t exist. So please don’t call me to share your problems or ask for my advice, we are not on good terms.”
“Please Jumoke… let’s just talk. Hear me out. ” Lanre said cautiously.
“Goodbye Lanre.” She said and hung up.
Several hours later, she walked into a fast-food restaurant, glad to be out of the office for a while. She needed a neutral environment where she could eat and forget about Lanre Williams. She suddenly wished that Derick could be with her.
Staring blankly at the music video showing on the television and running a finger down her chilled bottle of Sprite, she heard someone clear their throat behind her.
“Hi…” It was Remi.
Jumoke wanted to scream, did this family have a plan to drive her crazy? Remi saw the look on her face and exhaled in despair.
“This is a total coincidence, I wasn’t stalking you. I don’t even usually eat here.”
Jumoke stared down at her plate, not sure how to respond and wondering whether she should just get up and leave.
“Can I please sit down? Please Jumoke…” Remi said earnestly.
It didn’t matter anymore who was overreacting or who had said what, the bottom line for Remi was that her relationship with Jumoke had been badly strained and she desired reconciliation. They had only been friends for a short while as teenagers, but she hadn’t known anyone quite like her.
Jumoke was suddenly weak. She shrugged and gestured for her to sit, then she took a long gulp of her drink.
Now that she was seated Remi didn’t know what to say, she wrung her fingers and stared at them.
“Thank you for what you did…”
“I was just doing my job.” Jumoke replied, taking a bite of her chicken sandwich. She remembered Chef Lexy’s chicken and everything that had surrounded eating it and wished that she was back at The BlueCow Restaurant.
“I was never in support of leaving you. I fought everyone over it. I never wanted to leave you.”
Jumoke looked up at her. “But you did.”
“And I am sorry, it’s my greatest regret.”
“I’m not angry because you left. Well I am, but that’s not what hurts me the most. You led me to your brother knowing what he had in mind…”
“No Jumoke, of course not! I had no idea that my brother wanted to… I thought he valued you as much as I did.”
“Well he didn’t.” Jumoke took another bite of her sandwich and took a sip from her drink. “I’ve moved on with my life Remi, I’m doing very well. You don’t have to worry about me, and please tell your sister that I don’t want your brother’s money or your family’s money. Except of course our fee for the work we’re doing at Wilpac.”
Remi sighed. “I never meant you any harm Jumoke, I never did. I’ve always had your back.” she said and got up.
“So what are you going to do about Nnamdi?” Remi said to her brother later that day.
“I’m still thinking…”
“Well think fast. You can’t let such an action go unpunished and the sooner you address it, the better.”
“Would you like to take my job?” He retorted.
”I have no such intentions. I just wonder why you won’t do what needs to be done on time. Why do you dilly dally about your responsibility?”
“Uh oh.” Gbemi interrupted. “You’re not trying to refer to Jumoke are you?” she asked sarcastically.
Lanre and Remi looked at her angrily.
“And speaking of Jumoke, have you spoken to her?”
“Gbemi…” Remi said cautiously.
“I’m not talking to you.” she snapped.
“She’s not exactly talking to me.” Lanre said in answer to her question.
“Have you talked to Toyin?”
“Mind your own business!” Remi said.
“Will you shut up and take your own advice!” Gbemi replied.
“Gbemi, I’ll deal with it.” Lanre said wearily.
“You’re messing around with her Lanre. She’s my friend and I won’t let you do that to her. Tell her about Jumoke!”
“’Which Jumoke?” Mrs Williams asked, coming down the stairs.
The siblings stared at one another and refused to answer their mother. Lanre sighed, his night was about to be longer.
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“I waited and waited for you.” Toyin said snuggling up to him two hours later.
“Hmm.” He replied rubbing her hand distractedly.
“What were you doing?” she asked drowsily.
“Talking to my mum.” He answered dully and thought about the last two hours.
His mother had summarily urged him to find out through whatever means necessary whether he had a child or not. She and her husband were getting older and would appreciate a grandchild.
“How can you sit there and say that mum? Remi had asked incredulously.
“Remi are you talking to me like that?”
“Yes Remi, are you out of your mind?” Gbemi said in defense of her mother.
“You obviously are!” She had responded and faced her mother again. “What kind of person are you? You abandoned a girl’s twelve years ago and you have the audacity to demand that Lanre find her child and do what? Have a tearful reunion?”
“Remi…?” the mother replied distressingly.
“You are wicked! You’re not even talking about how you can apologize to you friend who you betrayed or her daughter. You’re only concerned about your own need to see a grandchild you abandoned years ago. How would you feel if this was one of us?
“Let’s all calm down, we don’t even know if there’s a child…” Lanre said appealingly.
“I am wicked because I protected my son from a gold digger?” His mother replied angrily, ignoring him.
“A gold digger who is saving your husband’s company from collapsing! Sometimes I wonder how I came to be a part of this family!”
With that she had gotten up and left the siting room.
“Babe?” Toyin nudged Lanre, bringing him out of his reverie.
“Did you hear me?”
“No, no, I’m sorry I was dozing off. What did you say?”
“Let’s get married.”
“W…what?!” Lanre almost yelled.
“I said let’s get married.” She whispered lovingly into his ear, stroking his chest.
Lanre knew this was a crucial moment. He couldn’t afford to say the wrong thing. “Okay.”
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