SHILOH knocked on the white primed panel door and opened at the entry invitation.
“Yes, sir?” She said to the burly man behind the oval cherry-wood desk, her expression a respectful demeanour. With his Personal Assistant on a short leave, she was the interim manning the Managing Director’s PA’s office.
“Ah yes, Shiloh. I need a small matter resolved at Regency Travel and Tours. It’s a travel agency along the stadium road. She, my wife that is, would have handled this but she has a lot of commitments today.” Mr Abi’s slightly scratchy voice thrummed with a note of apology. “There are changes in her travel arrangements to Dubai. It appears she would be going along with her niece. The travel agency has been notified but they require these documents.” He handed over a brown envelope. “Could you have this delivered to them, please? Jimi would take you.”
“All right, sir.” Shiloh dipped her head. “Would that be all, sir?”
“Yes. Thank you, Shiloh.” Mr Abi gave her a grateful smile.
“I’ll get to it then.” Shiloh smiled as she turned to step out of the office.
This was her third month with the company and so far, she’s been grateful she got the job at the security services company. The pay wasn’t bad, the hours were conducive and above all, she worked for a conscientious employer. Something that had prompted her resignation from her job in Lagos and her travel down to join her mother in Port Harcourt.
Regency Travel and Tours occupied the top floor of the three-storey office building. Shiloh aimed straight for the reception desk and the pretty Front Desk Officer behind it.
“Good morning.” She smilingly greeted. “I’m here to resolve the travelling arrangements of Mrs Cynthia Abi, please.”
“You’re welcome to Regency Travel and Tours, ma’am.” The young lady returned her smile. “If you would have a seat, I will call one of an agents to attend to you.”
“Thank you.” Shiloh said and turned towards the rows of leather-cushioned guest chairs.
“Victoria, could you please get me…” Jeth broke of, halted his steps and shifted his lips into a bright smile. “Well, good morning.”
This is one too many coincidences, Shiloh thought with some exasperation at the sight of a widely smiling Jethro looking suave in his usual three-piece suit. “Good morning.”
“Anything I can help you with?” Jeth was silently thanking God—the sure Way Maker.
“She’s here about Mrs Abi’s travel arrangements, sir.” Victoria responded before Shiloh could. “I was just about to call Daniel to attend to her.”
“That won’t be necessary. I will take care of this myself.” Jeth gestured towards the open entranceway. “This way, please.”
Shiloh gave an acquiescent nod and walked forward.
“Please, have a seat.” He invited once they were inside his office. “May I offer you anything?”
It was a nice office; well-furnished and moderately air-conditioned.
“No, thank you.” Shiloh declined, sitting in one of the guest chairs. “I won’t be staying long. Mr Abi says these are the documents requested for.” She extended the envelope across the neatly arranged desk.
“Thank you for bringing them over.” He took the envelope. “I’ll get to work immediately on the visa, flight and the alternate hotel reservation arrangements. You sure you don’t want me offering you something—a soft drink, maybe?”
“No, thanks. Are you not going to ask for my name?” Shiloh sat back in the chair and stared at him. “This is the fourth time we are meeting and I am yet to tell you.”
“I am waiting for you to tell me.” Jeth smiled when her eyebrows ticked up in a haughty arch. “I am certain you will only tell me when you are good and ready to and not because of the number of times I might decide to ask.”
“It’s Shiloh Ikhide.” Shiloh steadily held the amused expression.
“Shiloh.” Jeth said the name and grinned.
“What’s with the ridiculous grin?” Shiloh demanded, her eyes narrowing.
“You were all say-what? about my name but you too are an old-biblical name named child. Shiloh is certainly ‘Before-Christ’.” Jeth couldn’t stop his grin from widening.
“It might be. But it’s still so in use today. You hear people talking ‘Shiloh’ as much as you them talk Christianity and its values. Besides, it’s a Hebrew name with a solid meaning.”
“Hmm, yes.” Jeth inclined his head. “The one to whom it belongs.”
“It also means peace and it’s said to be a prophetic name for the Messiah.” Shiloh was impressed that he knew one meaning of her name. “On the other hand, Jethro is not bad meaning-wise for a BC name. Excellence. That too is a solid meaning.”
“It is. But please, keep it at ‘Jeth’. Jethro has a way of making me feel ancient.”
Shiloh chuckled. “Somehow, I can get why.” She cast a casual glance around. “So, do you like own this place?”
“I do.” Jeth imitated her quick casual glance around. “I used to work in ticketing and reservation but the airline started having issues and I, and a couple of others, were laid off. My brother figured I’d garnered enough experience to go out on my own and… here I am.”
“Looks like you are doing well for where you are.”
“I am thankful to God. He has taken me far for the new kid on the block. It’s been his grace all the way.” Jeth said honestly. “You meet a whole lot of challenges, kicks and punches from here and there, but so long as you’ve got him, you’re solid.”
“That is so true. He’s our shield and buckler and the light upon our paths when we come to crossroads.” Shiloh momentarily studied him. “So, how can you just say to a woman you’re meeting for the second time that you want her for a wife? Who does that?”
“Obviously, Jeth does that and maybe some other men out there.” Jeth smiled at her mild frown and lifted his shoulders. “I have never said that to any woman before. Believe me, Shiloh. And I was not speaking lightly, or foolishly, when I said that to you last Thursday. I actually prayed about this.”
“And what did God say to you?” Shiloh wasn’t sure if she was taking him seriously… yet.
“He didn’t say—not in clear speaking. But during my meditation hour, Wednesday night, I got this from the Psalms—‘You have made known to me the path of life.’ It seemed to me like it was some sort of response that he has shown me the path he has made for me in this matter.” Jeth chuckled a little. “I guess, it might sound all contrived to you, but I’m being honest. And I’d really like to get to know you, Shiloh.”
“I find all this somewhat unnerving. Not that I doubt God’s word… or his leading you.” Shiloh gave her head a shake. “I’ve learned myself to seek his face first in all things and to depend upon his guidance. But I don’t think I’m prepared for a relationship right now, Jethro… Jeth.” She amended with a quick smile. “The best I can offer anyone now is friendship and you’re after a wife, so that’s conflicting interest.”
“It’s not so conflicting.” Jeth disagreed, smiling. “A lot can grow from friendship.”
“I might not want anything growing from friendship, Jeth.” Shiloh countered. “Maybe it’s altogether best if we left things alone. That way, no one will be disappointed in future.” She rose to her feet. “I have to get back to the office. I expect Mrs Abi will be calling you directly about the resolved arrangements.”
“She will; and I’ll have everything taken care of.” Jeth came around his desk. “May I, at least, have your number?”
Shiloh hesitated. Then she sighed. “On the promise that you won’t hound me with calls.”
“That’s going to be a tough promise to keep, but I’ll try.” Jeth grinned and got out his mobile phone, passing it to her.
Shiloh entered her number and handed back the phone. “Remember that promise.”
“Tough.” Jeth said again, grinning. “But I’ll really try.” He picked his notepad, scribbled on it and tore it off. “Here. That’s mine too. There’s no restrictions hounding me. I’m available morning, noon, night and all hours in between.”
“Now that is more worrisome than reassuring.” Shiloh tucked the paper in her purse. “Have a good rest of your day, Jeth. And oh, you never gave your surname.”
“It’s Ailemeh. That makes us people of same heritage. Does that count as advantage?”
“No, it doesn’t. I’m all for one Nigeria, irrespective of ethnicity and all other differences.” Smiling, she walked to the door. “Bye, Jeth.”
“See you again.” Jeth responded and for the very first time, he was positive that he would.
And so was Shiloh as she walked out of the three-storey building.
SHE was settling down for her usual early night weekdays when her phone rang. Even before lifting the mobile device, Shiloh knew it was Jethro… Jeth. She’d been expecting his call. Without acknowledging that she was doing so though.
“I thought you were going to try really hard not to hound me with calls?” She said into the phone, hoping the smile on her lips wasn’t echoing in her voice.
“But I did try.” Jeth too was on his bed, his back propped against his pillows and the bedpost. “I cut the call every time I started dialling your number since eleven a.m. this morning and all the text messages I composed, I deleted without sending any. I was, in fact, thinking you’d be applauding my herculean restrain.”
“I would have if you had resisted longer and not made this call.” Shiloh teased. “But seeing as you weren’t brave enough…” she let the words trail off, grinning in the semi-darkness of her room.
“Gosh, you’re tough.” Jeth pulled a false heavy sigh and grinned. “How was your day? That is your day after you left Regency Travel and Tours.”
“Good. And yours?”
“Best day I’ve had in a long while and I’ll let you guess why.” Jeth played with the remote control of his bedroom’s 21″ TV. “Are you ready for bed or staying up for a late night movie?”
“I’m actually in bed.” Shiloh tucked up her bed cover. “I don’t do late night movies. Not unless it’s some great Romantic Comedy and I just can’t resist. I did watch my Happy Family soap though.” She drew the cover up to her chin and played with its hem. “I dig Nigerian soaps and series. At the moment, Jenifa’s Diary and Professor Johnbull are my leading series and also This Life… I mean it’s latest series. I love Wale Adenuga’s soaps and all such-like soaps and series. There’s just something earthy and real about them.”
“Unlike the Telemundo’s too-perfect-body characters and absurd love triangles thingy, right?” At her soft laugh, Jeth’s stomach walls tingled, along with his ear. “I love Jenifa’s Diary too and can’t get enough of KOK as Professor Johnbull. The whole cast, and all guest stars, are just amazing.”
“Aren’t they just? I wish Nigerians would see how much better our own stuffs are and give them all the support they need.”
“I think this age of cable television, and it becoming cheaper to install by the day, makes it all difficult.” Jeth shifted, tugged one of the pillows off his back and pressed it against his chest. “So, you don’t do Telemundo and Zee-world at all? They seem to be the popular ladies channel.”
“Not in this house. My mum can’t stand those two channels and I go bleh when I stop more than a minute at either of them.” Shiloh rolled to her side, crossed her legs at the ankles. “I think I’m the more practical movie kind of girl. The only mushy movie genre I watch is Romantic Comedies and that’s mostly because of the comic factor.”
“Practical movie kind of girl. Jeth tucks that in his memory pack for when he finds the courage to ask Shiloh out.” The tingles were spreading and Jeth couldn’t quite recall when he had one of them. “Your voice sounds a lot nicer over the phone.” It was throatier and more lilting with her accent diminished.
“So does yours.” Not meaning to say that aloud, Shiloh hastily cleared her throat. “Ah, I think I’ll be heading to bed now. I mean, I am in bed… I’ll just get off the phone and then to sleep.”
“Would you say a prayer with me?”
The quiet question surprised Shiloh. “Yes. Why not?”
Jeth allowed a pause to settle his thoughts… and the tingles. They didn’t quite settle though. “Heavenly Father, thank you for today. Thank you for what you designed this day to be. Thank you for the blessings your brought our way and thank you for the graces your provided us to face the day’s challenges. In every way that we have sinned against you today, Father, forgive us and draw us even closer to you. As we go to bed, we lay ourselves into your arms. Watch over us, Father. Grant us a peaceful night’s rest and lead us, by your merciful grace, into a new day tomorrow. In Jesus’ Name.”
“Amen.” Shiloh said and opened her eyes. “Goodnight, Jeth.”
Shiloh lowered the phone and turned it off. Then she turned to her other side and set the phone on her bedside table before sliding down to her right side. No man has ever prayed with her—none who wanted to date her, at least.
Jethro who liked to be called Jeth had done so. Hmm.
Shiloh closed her eyes and willed sleep to come.
Dedication: For February celebrants. True and everlasting love is my prayer for you.
And for all lover of love.