When you realise that all you have ever known about yourself is only a tip of the iceberg as to who you really are, then you understand, much more than the geographic theory of ‘the earth being spherical’, that life itself is a merry-go-round. (GRACE OCHIGBO ’17)
Getting out, he dragged down the edges of his Givenchy Blue blazers before fixing its only button. He opened the door to the backseat of his Nissan sports car and picked up his office bag.
He had the kind of face that stopped you in your tracks. No one feature makes him so handsome, though his eyes come close. People speak of the colour of eyes, as if that were of importance, yet his would be beautiful in any shade. His eyes were a mesmerising deep ocean blue, flecks of silvery light performed ballets throughout. His face was strong and defined, his features moulded from granite. He had dark eyebrows, which sloped downwards in an adventurous blissful journey, blending beautifully with his well-trimmed beards. From then comes the intensity, an honesty, a gentleness. Perhaps this is what is meant by a gentleman, not one of weakness or trite politeness, but one with coded assemblage of confidence wrapped in intelligence. Guess he must have gotten used to the fact that he was extremely handsome. The sudden pause in a person’s natural expression when they looked his way, followed by overcompensating with a nonchalant gaze and a weak smile. Of course, the blush that accompanied it was a dead give-away. It didn’t help anyone that God took a whole day to create him. Alone.
“Oga, you are back, welcome o!”
He knew it could only be one person. He had pressed down the lock button on his car’s remote earlier but it’s obvious he would have to undo that now. He pulled out the car’s safe and counted five pieces of one thousand naira notes.
“Make I help you, oga.”
He felt a hand bent on dragging his office bag from his hands. He smiled, coming to stand tall before ‘Pa Lawal’ as he always called the elderly man who seemed to be in his late fifties. He didn’t look like any younger or fresher anyway. His thick, untidy moustache was impatiently turning silver-white. His dark forehead had numerous lines. The map of wrinkles on his face told of the most incredible journey. His eye lines told of laughter, of warm smiles and affection. His forehead told of worries past and worries present. But mostly, they were so deeply engrained they told of a man who had struggled virtually through every flipping page of his life. So much hard work in poverty has probably added much more creases to Pa Lawal’s face than he must have ever bargained for.
“Nice to see you again, Pa Lawal!”
He thrust the naira notes into the older man’s hands carefully and started walking away gently. He was not one to like so many words – a gentleman to the core, his friends would say. That doesn’t make any difference to him though.
‘C’mon, I’m just being myself’, he would always say out in defence.
Few friends… or no friends at all. Cool life.
His diehard principle.
Of a truth, one’s life could be very beautiful till he brings friends into it.
Pa Lawal chanted his series of usual prayers for the young man who had long gone. His eyes were shut so he probably didn’t know when the young man left, and by the time he opened them, he saw the gateman staring at him from his duty post. Pa Lawal hurriedly pocketed the money and took back his shears. If there be anyone he prayed to see at work every day, it was this very person that made gardening worth his while.
“I couldn’t even wait to have you back already, young man…”
“Nimi Peters!” He interrupted before the man behind the table would finish what he was saying.
“OK! Calm it down boy! You don’t interrupt your boss that way.” Mr Johnson frowned.
“Especially after my boss agrees to stop talking immediately I open the door and at least courteously offer me a seat.” He removed the blazer’s only button and offered himself a seat while he yet spoke, returning his boss’ cocky smile.
“You are grateful I’m in my best of moods this morning, Mr Nimi Peters.”
He chuckled lightly. “You are always in your best of moods around me, sir. It is even more much so, as you have missed me around here for two weeks.”
Nimi wasn’t letting down his guards an inch.
Mr Johnson started laughing this time.
“You didn’t come here with any notepad or IPad, guess the reports from the week-long meetings you had in Houston, Texas are all in your brain?”
Nimi smiled. “I keep recommending that you should refresh your mail box every morning, sir. I sent them as soon as I got in early hours of this morning.”
Mr Johnson smiled again. Nimi got him this time.
He was not particularly that charming handsome looking man but his smile made up for that a little. He had the RMD’s kind of ever-young body stature, and even though old enough to be the father of the young man in front of him, he finds Nimi extremely fun to be with. Sometimes he was tempted to believe that they both share some sort of striking resemblance. He didn’t mind having a chit-chat with Nimi for as long and as frequent as possible. Only Nimi had the boldness and charisma potent enough to talk and gist with him anyway. His other employees probably feel he’s too hard a man to smile at or with anybody, and being the CEO of the large Crestac Group of Companies made the matter no better.
“Oh! I guess I didn’t look well enough. I would probably have if you tagged her pictures alongside…” He was grinning at the obviously baffled Nimi now.
“Who is ‘her’, sir?”
“She made you postpone your flight back to Nigeria by a week, didn’t she? Work and pleasure.”
Nimi hit his hand angrily against the table. “She sent more photos to your email again, I guess?” His words felt like a big ball in his throat, unable to swallow. “…well, you see now that she is having someone edit those pictures for her or she does it herself.”
Mr Johnson rolled his eyes and Nimi immediately could tell where the man was heading to.
“You know what, sir?” He started before his boss could say any more word. “…I think I need to sort out some things on my table before the board meeting.”
Nimi saw the disappointment on the older man’s face but simply ignored it. He could care less right now all together. This was absolutely not the best time to have a discussion as that, so he got up and replaced his button.
“Have a great day too, sir!”
Mr Johnson smiled in defeat as he watched the elegant young man walk out of his office. He had class, good dress sense and was undoubtedly smart.
Nimi Peters was just the perfect picture.
Nimi barely left the door knob of his secretary’s office before Edward followed at his heels. He replied as polite as he could to his secretary who was passing some of her usual leering smiles at him.
The poor girl, Nimi thought.
“People would think I’m a criminal if you keep hurrying after me like this in the office, Edward!” Nimi was all smiles.
“Edward? Anyways, look at you! Come here!” Edward dragged the almost stiff Nimi into his arms for a warm hug.
The boss, Mr Johnson, Nimi’s secretary, their colleagues, virtually everyone would claim to have missed Nimi’s presence over the past two weeks, but none of those could compare to Edward’s own level. Life practically stops for him whenever Nimi wasn’t around. They’ve been friends since way back – from those times in the university – and it felt like a crowning honour for Mr Johnson to have these two geniuses work for him.
“How is the family, Man?” Nimi patted his friend’s shoulders as soon as he was set loose from the hug. Man hugging a man? Feels quite awkward to Nimi. Not as though he was actively involved in the reverse case anyway.
“Very fine, very fine. Goldie kept asking after Uncle Nimi.”
Nimi smiled. His favourite girl right there.
“I bought the doll she asked for. Luck was on my side this time, you know? I couldn’t have faced her without it. Not after disappointing her two times in a row.”
One cannot categorically tell what Edward was doing anymore; he wasn’t listening. He appeared to be either laughing, smiling or giggling. Nimi just knew what he was up to.
“You really think it’s too early, huh?” Edward asked on seeing Nimi’s face, and decided to bring him back before he would go far in his thoughts. They’ve come too close so much so that they could almost read each other’s mind that accurately.
“Why do you worry Ele then, if you won’t land in your office before going for lunch? I thought lunch is oyinbo’s name for afternoon food? This is barely…” Nimi protested, raising his left hand to check the time on his wristwatch and words gradually diminished off his mouth till he stopped talking.
“Whether you are still using the U.S. time zone here in Nigeria, or you were so tired after the flight last night that you woke up close to noon, or the fact that you just left your office daddy’s office…” Nimi frowned at the ‘office daddy’ part of the sentence but Edward ignored. “… whichever it is that’s worrying you right now, this is some minutes to one, 1pm, Nimi Peters and it’s time for lunch here at Crestac.”
“You win, Eddy!” Nimi rose his hands up as a mark of surrender and brought them down shortly afterwards.
He started moving in the direction of his office. They probably had forgotten they were doing all these dramas before his secretary. What difference does it make anyway? They’ve done diverse dramas before every other person, including Joelyn.
“And I’m sure I need not tell you that I wasn’t practicing cross-country by running after you!” Edward was getting cynical again.
How he does it at times baffled Nimi. It would come out so funny in an annoying way and then one would be left standing confused as to the best reactions to give back to him.
“You should shed some weight too, right?” Nimi responded with sarcasm, running his eyes all over his chubby friend, while keeping a cocky smile at the left side of his mouth.
“It’s not by running after Nimi definitely…” Edward snapped. “…let’s go have lunch Houston boy.”
He dragged Nimi by the hand and the latter reluctantly followed. Apart from the fact that Nimi hadn’t entered his office, he didn’t include, in his proposed expenditure for today, the budget to feed two mouths during lunch.
Nimi took in a deep breath.
“I guess there would never be a running away from you, Eddy!” He dragged his hand from Edward’s grip and walked on beside him.
Edward had been doing more of talking than eating. He seemed to have a lot up his sleeves and today also appeared to be the best time to discharge all of it. Nimi has always been a good listener – isn’t that why everyone is attracted to him? He listens with so much rapt attention, one would think he was circumventing your soul. And when ladies ask him why he was so nice, he never seemed to know their reasons for this question, because to him again, he was just being Nimi… Nimi Peters.
“Mehn! I really don’t see anything out of the ordinary with Joelyn, yeah! She is only a spoilt rich girl having a hard time managing her emotions. Not as though you are any better by the way.”
Nimi couldn’t believe his friend was on the girl’s side again. Well, Edward has always been on any girl’s side. So long as you are a girl, you are never wrong in Edward’s sight as far as Nimi’s case was concerned. Nimi was always the wrong one; Nimi was always the one too rigid to allow emotions; Nimi was always the one still harbouring hurts and wounds. Nimi was this… Nimi was that…
“Nimi is always the problem!” Nimi screamed before he could stop himself. They were sitting at their regular area in the cafeteria – somewhere to the extreme left, very much away from the waiters – so it wasn’t too unsafe to shout as the noise from the other colleagues having their lunch could swallow it up.
“You called us?” a voice came through his ears from behind.
First Nimi thought he heard a melodious song, like the voice of a nightingale, and turning his face to see the body that owned that sweet voice made shudders run down his spine in quick successions. Her hair was midnight-black and it flowed over her shoulders. She had saccharine sweet lips. They were blossom soft alongside her glossy skin. She looked like an escape from one of Michel Angelo’s works. Her Amazonian figure sat well on her wafer-thin body. She had a decanter shaped waist and her complexion had an impeccable, ochrous hue. A sculptor could not have fashioned her seraph’s ears and pixie’s nose any better. Her face had little pints of sweat, she definitely must have been moving up and down, attending to customers the whole time. God! No one can look more gorgeous, even behind a waitress’ apron. No one. Not even any of the overhyped air hostesses Nimi had been involuntarily feeding his eyes on lately. He forgot his mouth open for a fraction of a minute as his heart seemed to have missed too many beats.
“Uhm? Ehm? I mean, sorry, I wasn’t calling for your services.” Nimi stammered. She must have been somewhere around to hear that shout. It couldn’t have been too loud enough… perhaps he rose his hands unconsciously in the process. Typical of Nimi to gesticulate.
“OK sir!” The waitress said politely, turned her back and walked away.
The background design was entrancing also. That was how Nimi forgot he was still at a table. He totally didn’t even remember Edward’s presence and that would be his biggest mistake today, he could bet that.
“So it has gotten to the point of staring lustfully at a beautiful waitress, right? If this is how low you have stooped then you had better yield to my counsel of seeing a doctor ASAP.”
Edward’s voice startled Nimi and brought his attention back to the table. Edward sounded unusually serious this time.
“How do you mean staring, Man!” Nimi was about to feign ignorance of the act he had just been caught red-handed in.
Edward shook his head from side to side. He had always known there were many things wrong with his beloved friend, aside Joelyn, of course.
Nimi and Edward walked back into Nimi’s office after lunch. This time more gentlemanly and not as hurriedly as Edward made them do earlier. Nimi’s secretary tried to say something to him but he was too preoccupied with the voice he heard few minutes ago that he unconsciously waved her off and Edward saw no need intervening – she wasn’t his own secretary, after all.
Nimi stepped back so fast, on opening the door to his office, that he bumped into Edward that was following directly behind him.
Joelyn was on his chair.
“Hi Jo!” Edward said courteously before turning back to his friend. “…it’s your mess, deal with it! And on time too!”
‘What was he talking about?’ Nimi thought as his friend virtually whispered those last words before walking out like something was pursuing him, and slamming the door hard. Guess someone, not something, was pursuing Nimi right in here.
Nimi was sure to maintain the displeasured look on his face as he closed the door and stepped into the office proper. Joelyn got up and straightened the edges of her short slim-fitted gown. Most times, Nimi wonders why the chubby girl squeezes her bulky form into a dress twice smaller than her.
“If you got a job other than photography, Jo, you wouldn’t be sneaking into other people’s offices at unannounced and ungodly hours.” Nimi’s voice gave away no emotions with it.
Joelyn came to stand before him, looking at him as though she was accessing something, from the crown of his head to the sole of his feet, with her large bulging eyes. They were indeed sultry. She then pushed her body closer against his and hugged him warmly. Nimi left his hands still in the pocket of his pants while receiving his second hug for the day.
What a ‘hug-full’ day, he thought.
“No Nimi. I didn’t sneak in. I wanted to just surprise you, that’s all. I really missed you! And photography is job enough, you know!” she winked at him, touching his left cheek softly with her first finger.
“So you are here to get more shots that you would Photoshop and mail to your dad, is that? I don’t even know why you do that. To think that the old man totally believes you.” His voice was rising.
“Chill! No harm intended.” Joelyn went back to sit on one of the visitor’s chairs this time, crossing her legs.
“No harm intended? Will you continue to play childish pranks all your life? These are purely inconvenient jokes if you don’t know. I understand he is your father, alright? But do you also realise that it’s my boss we are talking about?” Nimi’s voice has gone extremely high as anger replaced every giggling feeling that voice gave him earlier.
“You really don’t have to shout too, do you?” Joelyn resounded and also looked extremely uncomfortable.
That didn’t matter to Nimi anyway.
“To think that I don’t take a dime from you, do you want to ruin my integrity on this job at the end of it all? Since when did my agreeing to model free for your freaking photography career become a crime?”
“Since you refused to admit what we are, damn it!” Joelyn screamed at the top of her lungs as well, getting up while at it.
Truthfully, that response was strange and confusing to Nimi and even more now that Joelyn was raising her voice too and pacing on one foot, one of them would have to mellow down before the office becomes a viewing centre for the media. Nimi tried to hide the confusion in him and put up a defensive bold front, typical of him as well. He walked over to his seat, at the opposite side of the table, took it and suddenly felt like sinking into it. It’s been weeks since he last sat on this chair and a quarrel with Joelyn again didn’t seem like his idea of a welcome back party.
“OK! Refused to admit what we are?” He asked more calmly now and he could see a little smile forming around Joelyn’s face while she nodded continuously like a starving agama lizard.
He needed to be on top of the situation and with caution too, especially bearing in mind the confusing warning statement Edward made before leaving.
“What are we please, Miss Joelyn Johnson?”
“Well…” Joelyn cleared her throat slightly and sat on the chair. “…Mrs Joelyn Nimi-Peters in a bit, especially now that I’m carrying our baby!”
Nimi’s popping eyes could throw one off a high cliff as he heard her announcement.
To be continued next Monday! 😍
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