7: Please don’t judge me……by Atala Wala Wala
Chinedu watched her as she slept, taking in the delicately curved lashes, the slight upturn of her nose and her long, tied-back hair. As he did, once again he regretted the reckless streak that had made him tell her that he was an armed robber during their previous encounter. He shrugged; I guess that’s just who I am.
Iphey stirred and opened her eyes. She sat up with a jerk and looked around. How could she have fallen asleep with a guest in the flat?
“Madam, drinks are served.” He bowed with an exaggerated gesture and presented her with the glass.
She sat up and took it with a grateful smile. “How long have I been sleeping?”
Chinedu smiled back. “Not long enough. After the stress of today, you definitely need some rest. Even your body agrees.”
While Iphey drank, her mind turned cartwheels. He was kind and considerate; he was funny; and he was good looking. She did want to like him, but… that history. And how could he be so comfortable and nonchalant about it, too? What exactly had happened to drive him down those darker paths of life?
But did she really want to know, anyway? Wasn‟t it her curiosity that had saddled her with the burden of this knowledge? What if he revealed even darker secrets – secrets that made it too difficult to bear the contrast between the person she was getting to like and the person she wanted to keep at a distance?
A musky scent intruded into her thoughts as Chinedu settled beside her. “You seem to be a lot better, but it looks like you also have something on your mind.”
“Oh… I was still thinking about my nephew… I‟m praying that he‟ll pull through.” Iphey was thankful for the handy smokescreen Obi‟s hospitalization presented to her.
Chinedu nodded. “I completely understand. Was it very shocking to hear the news?”
“He‟s had asthma attacks before, but nothing like this…” Her voice trailed off.
“I hope he pulls through; in any case, he‟s in good hands now. There‟s not much else we can do except pray”.
They sat together for a while, each lost in thought.
Iphey broke the silence. “Oh, I feel so bad; you‟ve been so kind. I am a bad host. Can I get you anything?”
Chinedu laughed. “This isn‟t a proper visit; I only came over when your mum told me about your nephew’s crisis. I’ve put some Indomie in the microwave for you; otherwise, I’m happy to just talk. Like I said earlier, once I heard from Aisha, I was hoping we could set another date. “
Again, Iphey felt herself torn apart by the self that said “go for it, he‟s a great guy” and the other self that said “watch out, he used to be an armed robber!”
The cautionary self won out. “Well, I don‟t know… right now, my mind is not settled enough to think about that.”
“I understand, and that‟s why I‟m not asking you for anything immediate. I only want to know if you would like to meet at all.”
Seeing her hesitate further, he added “Think about it. You‟ll get the chance to hear about my adventures during my life of crime.”
At that remark, all her apprehension boiled over into indignation. “How can you be so callous and talk about it as an adventure, as though you had been on holiday? Don‟t you even feel any remorse?”
Chinedu nodded his head. So it was the armed robber thing; he had thought as much. “I regret what I did then, but that doesn‟t mean that I cannot describe some of them as adventures. Or do you want me be to lie about my past to you?”
“I‟m not asking you to lie, but please show a sense of shame! Why should I want to hear about the adventures of an armed robber on a date?”
Chinedu began to feel irritated; he had meant to bring the issue up in a light-hearted way to diffuse any possible tension, but that sure wasn’t working.
“OK, I‟m sorry that I‟m not perfect. I‟m sorry that my life has this smear you disapprove of. But at least, one good thing is that if I meet someone who made mistakes and turned their life around, I‟m less likely to judge them harshly.”
Iphey was defensive. “I‟m not judging you; I‟m just saying that you shouldn’t take it so lightly.”
“Really?” Chinedu smiled bitterly. “Avoiding Aisha’s calls and not even calling me to say thanks all this while has nothing to do with me being an armed robber before? Do you remember the anger and force with which you responded to the revelation?”
Seeing that Iphey had been embarrassed into silence, he continued in a softer tone. “I don‟t blame you; others have judged me before too. I found it wiser to be quiet about my past. Even now, I don‟t tell everyone. I only tell people I‟ve known for long enough to trust.
“But sometimes, I take a chance, follow my instincts and tell people who I feel I have strong connection to, even though I‟ve just met them; people who I feel will be willing to listen more and judge less.” He looked into her eyes, and continued. “The trouble is, sometimes, my instincts are wrong.”
Chinedu rose and stretched. “It‟s getting late so I must head out.” At the door, he stopped and turned. “My instincts may be wrong sometimes; but somehow, I don‟t think this is one of them. How do I know? Maybe it‟s my instinct telling me.”
He smiled wanly and added. “I really hope your nephew makes it out of intensive care. Please let me know if there‟s anything I can do to help. Have a good night, Iphey.”
She listened to the door latch slowly, her head bowed in thought. The ping of the microwave brought her out of it.
8: Office Politics: Small small girls….by Bubbles
Bisi was on her BlackBerry as she stepped out of the bank‟s official car. Her last marketing call had been very successful indeed. She was smiling as she walked into the closed banking hall from the back entrance.
Iphey and Jane were at the front desk. “Welcome back.” Iphey greeted.
Bisi nodded. “Follow me,” she mouthed since she was still on the cell phone.
She walked into the marketing office which was empty, all her colleagues must have left for the day, and settled into her swivel chair. “I will see you once I get off here…ok bye bye.” She pressed the end call button and turned. Iphey was leaning on the door looking at her with a smile.
“Hey babes, I’ve told you to relax with me. Come and sit down, I have gist.”
Iphey walked over and took the seat opposite.
“I met your boyfriend…”
“Who are you talking about?” Iphey looked surprised.
“I met Chinedu in Silverbird last night. Fine hard working bobo like that. All he could talk about was you; his friend said he even left us to run to your side…”
“Oh, he‟s not my boyfriend ooo abeg…”
“But wouldn‟t you like him to be? Maybe if Funmi hears about you both, she’ll know you left Ayo for her…”
“Shhushh. Don‟t let anyone hear you say that. I told you about them in confidence.”
Bisi motioned of zipping her lips.
“I…” Iphey moved forward but the ringing intercom cut her off.
“Hold on.” Bisi picked it up, listened for a bit and hung up. “Jane said she needs you back, she wants to leave soon.”
“OK, let‟s talk tomorrow.” Iphey stood up and left the office.
Bisi tidied up her desk, put all the necessary documents in a black folder and slammed it shut. She shrugged into her dark purple blazer, and re-applied her lip gloss. She smacked her lips and walked down the corridor around the corner. On the right stood a beige door, she knocked twice.
Bisi walked in with a smile on her face. “Oga mi…” She walked towards the table.
“I‟ve told you to stop calling me that. Wetin sef?”
“Ahn ahn, Funmi calm down jo! Body too dey pepper you.” Bisi huffed and crossed her arms in annoyance.
The head of operations backed down. “OK, OK sorry! But I don‟t know when you‟re being sarcastic with the oga thing.”
“I just dey hail you. I know that when the time comes, you will help me just like Ayo gave you a double promotion.” Bisi uncrossed her arms and sat down.
“You can trust me on that. Did Alhaji give you the account?”
Bisi took off her blazer and leaned forward with excitement. “Yes now, don‟t you know me again?” She waggled her eyebrows. “Who can resist this?” She bent low till her pendant was hanging in the exposed cleavage.
Funmi laughed. “No forget say na me give you the connections and 411.”
“I fit?” Bisi sat back and placed the black folder on the desk between then. “He said we should expect turnover of at least five hundred million a month…”
“Wow, with this, you‟ll soon be head of marketing and I‟ll be branch manager.” Funmi jumped to her feet and came around to hug her.
“So you want to displace your former lover?” Bisi laughed.
Funmi leaned on the corner of the table. “Don‟t mind that stupid randy goat. He wants to push me over because of small small girls. Did Iphey tell you anything else?”
“She said she’ll hook him to displace you, and is still bad mouthing you sha…”
“I will show her…” Funmi shook her head and bit a nail.
Bisi laughed. “Listen to new gist first. I went out during the weekend and met this guy…”
“Where did you go sef? I hope it wasn‟t that razz place in Silverbird?” Funmi interrupted, eyeing her with disdain.
“The place is not razz jo! Please let me finish my story now?”
“Ok, ok continue.”
“As I was saying, I met this guy who asked me if I knew Iphey. He wants her. I don‟t know how or where she met him but she is one lucky girl, he is very handsome.”
“How is that my concern?”
“Don’t you want her to date him and leave Ayo for you?”
Funmi pursed her lips. “Hmmm…that one is her business o. Imagine, less than three months and she wants to pull weight with me. Ayo or no Ayo, she has to leave this branch if not the bank. I can‟t stand her.”
Bisi got up and faced Funmi. “So Ayo is not getting back with you?”
Funmi sucked her teeth, “So he says but I‟m still working on him…”
“That fool! Maybe you should just forget about him.”
“We shall see.”
“Ok o! I have to go now. I‟m meeting Alhaji.” She put on her blazer.
“Alright, full gist tomorrow?”
Bisi nodded and tapped her folder. “Abeg get the small small girls to open the account. You can add more mistakes to bounce on their head as usual.”
“I need the ammo to show that small girl pepper.”
They both laughed as Bisi walked out.
Thanks for reading this story. Watch out for another interesting episode soon.