With eyes on the wrapped parcel before her, Katherine lowered her bag on the desk. She reached for the intercom but halted when something glittering caught her eyes. In gold was written—Happy birthday Katherine.
She slumped on the nearest chair, dazed. For seconds, she remained in the same position as she tried to recall the day and month and actually it was her birthday! She trembled.
Who in the world was the sender?
She undid the wrapper.
“Oh my God!” She exclaimed. “Oh-my-God.” She muttered, flabbergasted. On her lap was a superior brand of his phone and the latest model!
She knew who the sender was. How could he spend so much money to buy a phone to celebrate a birthday she didn’t even remember? Not that her birthday wasn’t special to her, at a point in her life it’d meant everything to her, but those periods were long gone. It only brought back rush of emotions and memories that left her heartbroken.
With unwavering determination long ago, she had repressed her birth date in such a way that she treated it like every other day.
Though some events in SIC had put cracks on a heart that without a choice, she had carefully picked its pieces and fix back. What was before her was a shocker that threatened to break her heart. She blinked and heaved.
No—no—don’t cry. She told herself. You know that once you start, you won’t stop.
Thoughtful, she stood. He must have gone through her bio data.
She pulled a drawer and placed the phone. “God please help me.” She muttered and headed for his office.
She still had an objection.
She stepped in and he looked up from the book he had been reading. “Happy birthday, Katherine.” He beamed.
“Thank you, sir.” Her lips parted into a smile. “I’m so taken aback. You did go out of your way and I’m grateful but I—I don’t have cake and drink to give you.”
He chuckled. “Don’t bother about that, I’m glad you love your surprise.”
“Sir, I—I don’t have anybody to call.” She blurted.
Was she actually serious? He narrowed his brow, alarmed and lowered his eyes, drummed the pencil he was holding on his desk for few seconds and processed his thoughts. “Mobile phones are not made for communication solely, though it’s one of the vitals. If you have nobody to call, you can call me, myself, I and Precious. Four persons to call is far beyond nobody.” He smiled up at her with a raised brow.
Katherine chuckled. “Thank you, sir.” She glanced at her wrist watch. “The meeting is in a couple of hours, you should be on your way now because the traffic along Lagos-Ibadan expressway is unpredictable.”
“True, inform my driver that I will be ready to leave in five minutes.”
“Okay, sir. Excuse me.”
“My dad will arrive Nigeria by Sunday and will be staying for three days. He will be in meetings, go for field trips, and attend conferences and so on. His permanent secretary was sacked after his last visit. It doesn’t make sense employing a secretary for three days so…” Kelvin paused to sip water. “I have two persons that can serve that purpose, Precious and you.” He sat back.
“Precious is now an executory and it is unfair for me to make her do what she is grown past. You are competent enough for this work, besides it will provide you with exposure and experience. You will be working with the founder of Sigismund International and going places with him. You’re the only secretary I know that can work with him.”
What! From the DG to the founder, has he forgotten her root? “Sir I—I can’t…”
“Katherine, you can, I believe you can. Give me no objection and I would take it.” He held her gaze.
“By 7 on Monday, my driver will be waiting here to take you to the production company. I don’t think it’s in you to be nervous, please don’t be now.” He searched her expression hoping he wasn’t being manipulative.
The plea his voice held had surprisingly soothed her. He had believed in her so far and it had worked out. She nodded, hopefully this too would work too.
“Is that a yes?”
If she wasn’t tensed she might have rolled her eyes. What was wrong with him, he doesn’t want a-no but when he got-yes, he still questioned it. “Yes.”
“Thank you.” He appreciated gleefully, so gleeful that it made Katherine smile. “Don’t be scared Katherine, just be yourself.”
It was an opportunity, a rare one to meet the Visionary of such a great company that has been established in half of the countries of the world.
She knew so many would give whatever they could to see him talk more of working for him and here she was having direct access to him for three days and she dared to object.
She resolved to do her best.
Katherine repeated the paragraph.
“My dear, you repeated that.” Franklin Sigismund glanced at her.
They were in the sitting wing of the Franklin’s permanent office. Its class was very well beyond that of Kelvin. It represented the status of the owner in a breath taking way and the wall was graced with awards and recognition he had received in Nigeria.
Katherine was seated opposite him, holding a letter.
“I’ll have to comment on the paragraph that is why I repeated it so you can understand what I am driving at. The paragraph was centred on a plea.” She glanced down at the letter. “Based on the content of this letter and the organisation it is addressed to, I think a firm approach will do the magic.” She expatiated. “Not that a plea won’t work but it is going to give the addressee an impression that we are desperate; that we are begging because there are no other up to standard substitute. They will feel important and will want to put their power to test by extending our feedback date and making us want to plead more, not that we won’t eventually get what we need but it will be delayed.”
“You can rewrite it.” He sipped from the ice tea in a tumbler on his side table.
“Thank you. I’ve another observation.”
“Shoot.” He said with a smile as one directing a movie and sat back.
“During our tour yesterday, I saw samples of the new product. Bar soap are so common in Nigeria that people have a lot to choose from and sometimes the packaging have little or no effect on their choices because they see the tag bar soap on all available choices. I was brain waved when I looked at those samples in the lab yesterday.” Her forehead creased. “When you see something over and over again though having different content but packaged in the same way, there is a high tendency of still making it a never mind.”
“We get curious when we see an unusual presentation of a thing. Who doesn’t appreciate creativity? It is possible to get creative with the soap production, make various shapes…” She gestured. “Common shapes like rectangle, square, rhombus, triangle etcetera, alongside variety of colours. I know all those are possible scientifically with the various colouring pigment alongside precision.” She swallowed.
His eyes did not leave her face yet it caught every movement of her hands.
“From what the research department discovered, tested and presented, we know this soap has an authentic wiping effect on the toughest stain one can think of. I believe its content can be preserved despite the shapes and colours. Advertisement,” She lifted both hands and made a quotation mark sign with both her fingers. “The people who face the problem of stains are the school children, housewives, unskilled and semiskilled labourers, workers and so on.”
“The advertisement has to have a kind of canopy, a coverage for them all. For instance, students in high school and college are mostly responsible for their washing. In most case, they scrub, wash but some stains just wouldn’t come off. It is a known knowledge that they want to look impressive at all time, they are desperate for a soap that works. Hence, their ears are on the ground.”
“The soap is introduced with all its uniqueness, you don’t need to soak before washing, you get to choose a preferred colour and shape, washing is faster and energy preserving. Mother needn’t take clothes off the line to wash a second time. Such news spread like wild fire in dry season.” Katherine smiled and tilted her head in a kind of what-do-you-think way?
“You solved the three major priority of a producer—what to produce, how to produce and for whom to produce. When I hear something unusual but promising, I get to rub my left cheek the way I am doing now.” He grinned.
Katherine chuckled rather shyly.
“My three intended days are over today, make the necessary calls and put my flight ticket on hold. Contact the head of research and advertisement department for a meeting for 8am tomorrow. Unfortunately, Kelvin can’t be around tomorrow, he’ll be sealing a contract. When we’ve converged you will be repeating what you just told me. That was one of the most powerful suggestion I ever heard from a secretary. As a matter of fact, you’re the best I ever had.”
She blushed. “Thank you, sir.”
Franklin stood. “Let’s go for lunch.”
“You’ve been more of a personal assistant than a secretary to me. I’ll like you to come to the airport with me tomorrow. More importantly, I’ll like to see your lovely face when I come back to Nigeria, for my son has zero tolerance for irresponsibility.”
“I will do my best, sir.” She beamed as she remembered the words of Kelvin. He had told same about his father.
He walked out with an aura of confidence and a smile people often wondered if it was plastered since he was always smiling. Kelvin was a chip off his shoulder, just that Kelvin was taller while his eyes were hazel in colour.