Katherine looked up, distracted from the plans she had been scribbling on a note pad as the door opened.

“Katherine, you can’t…” Olaide Maechi, the executive director began.

“Olaide, how can you walk into my office without the courtesy of a knock?” Katherine interrupted calmly.

“How dare you address me by my name?” Olaide demanded, it came out more like a rebuke.

“Oh.” Katherine resolved, knowing there was more to the outburst.

She sat back to listen and study him.

What they had always had between them were important communication and meetings. She had considered him to be a reserved person.

“You’ve no respect because of your unearned position, now you think you’re so big that you can manipulate anyone. I don’t care one bit if the rest of the member of staff approved of the project! That project is going to put a hole in this company’s pocket, if you can’t see that, you’ll have to make do without my approval and without it, ma’am, the project will not commence.” He smirked. “You cannot use whatever charm you used on the boss on me, I’m an Africa man.” He beat his chest emphatically. “A cleaner can never tell me what to do.”

She allowed silence prevailed for few seconds with her eyes trained on him. “You consider yourself well-schooled yet you cannot observe courtesy, even members of staff with less qualification know that.” She began calmly, if she had been hurt by what he had said, neither her facial nor verbal expression portrayed it.

“You claim to be an ED qualified by all standard yet you act like a…” She left her statement purposely uncompleted as she stood. “Even those who are not learned know that it’s wrong to bottle up grievances. You didn’t approve Katherine Sylvester being a secretary yet you didn’t speak, you didn’t approve Katherine Sylvester being the assistant director general yet you never spoke out not even when there was an avenue for objection. Don’t you think Olaide that you’re a coward?” She paused. “You run into my office with an intention of talking me into feeling like a crap after all my backbone is far away in Hawaii.” She left her position for the side of her desk taking slow steps.

He didn’t plan for her reaction so he just stared.

“I’m no coward. I’m independent and need no one to fight my battles for I-know-who-I-am.” She brandished a smile that slowly transformed into a beam. “Project for the less privileged never create hole in people’s pocket talk more of that of a company as ours and I know right there, somewhere in the remote part of your conscience, you know it’s true.” She placed an index finger on her glossed lips thoughtfully.

“How can you…?”

“Wait up, executive director, is it not your car I saw with the sticker—givers never lack, the other day at the parking lot?”

Olaide took a step back flummoxed.

She took a couple of steps forward but maintained distance. “I’m sure it will interest you to know the boss approved of this project four days ago, I’ve signed on his behalf and it is a shame you seem to be the only Oga at the top that is not aware that the first delivery pertaining the project is currently on.”

He blanched, turned away from her and exhaled.

She became worried as it occurred to her how much time he must invested in planning to confront and belittle her.

“Oh, Laide, I’m sorry. We shouldn’t be like this. We should be pals. Please let’s sit and talk.”

To her amazement, he turned and at her gesture, they reclined to the sitting wing. She sat across him.

“Life is a mystery.” She began quietly. “If life cards had been played fairly, our paths would probably have never crossed and even if it did, it would have been on an entirely different level. You probably won’t have been able to walk on the mire from my shoes.”

He met her gaze, the sadness and hurt he saw sent shivers of regret down his spine. His head dropped in absolute disappointment in himself. He was better than bringing down someone who had done nothing wrong rather made his work easier.

Katherine watched him.

“Katherine…I am so sorry.”

“I acknowledge your repentance, sir.” She told the executive director who looked so much like a taller version of Eddie Murphy.

“Please, let seat together to lunch.” He looked up at her.

She couldn’t resist him as she nodded with a smile.

That afternoon, a new friendship was birthed.

*-*

She adjusted the earplugs and redialled the number. She walked across the well-trimmed garden clad in white cotton vest and pink bum shorts.

“Hi darl.”

“Hi, runaway boss.” She joked and chuckled.

He laughed. “How are you?”

“I’m splendid. How’re you?’

“Very well, thank you. How’re you holding down things over there for us?”

“I’m so grateful to God, things are being sorted out faster than I imagined. I may even have time to dash home to see my mum and sister in California.”

“I didn’t expect anything less from my boss.”

“Quit bossing me and tell me how your day was?”

“Everything inclusive of the project are falling into place except when Olaide…’ She stopped herself.

“Go ahead.”

“Nothing, sir.”

“Whatever happened, I want it out already or do I have to call Anita?” He could hear the curiosity and impatience in his voice.

She laughed. “Anita wouldn’t even know. We had a misunderstanding and we settled it amicably like the mature people we are. We even had lunch together.”

“Oh really?” He chuckled. “He is filling for me as your lunch partner?”

Did she sense a hint of jealousy or was her ears now acting up? She laughed since she was in the dark of what to say.

“Anyways, I am proud of the wonderful work you two are doing especially of the two contracts you guys sealed.”

“Thank you, we learnt from the best.”

“Keep psyching your oga. I have to go now.”

She ended the call amused at way her boss had said— psyching and Oga.

She did miss him. One of the reason she had turned him down when he had asked her to see him off to the airport. She knew it would have brought back memories that would have got her all emotional.

She heaved and kept strolling. Being conscious of the way he looked at her, the way he listened made her afraid of disappointing him someday.

She needed someone to talk to and had no one to do that with except the Supreme.

*-*

They stood as she entered the office and walked towards the sitting wing looking simply gorgeous in a well-tailored, ash coloured skirt suit with a purple camisole and a matching open-toes wedged shoes.

“Here she comes.” Kelvin announced.

Katherine rolled her eyes.

Kelvin cleared his voice. “Katherine, meet my best friend Kenneth Sigisfried of KKS electronics USA, the very heir to the Mega Company. I’m sure you must have heard of the company, they supply most of our electronics. Ken, meet a great lady in our world, sharing the first initials of our names, she is the assistant director general of Sigismund international Nigeria and my very good friend.”

“Wow.” Kenneth hugged and kissed her on both cheeks. “It is indeed a pleasure to meet you at last, Kelly has said so much about you but he never for once mention that you’ll be contesting for Miss Universe soonest.”

Katherine chuckled. “I surely must be blushing cyan, I am pleased to meet an efficient electronic electrical engineer with a striking personality, love your eyes.”

“Wow.” He fanned himself with a palm. “It is been ages anyone talked about my eyes. Thank you.”

“Thank you too. How long have you been here?”

“About fifteen minutes.”

She gave Kelvin a stern look. “How come there is nothing on the table to welcome him yet?” Without waiting for a response, she walked to the fridge, brought a couple of wineglass and a bottle of fruit wine and placed them the side table closest to where Kenneth was now seated.

“Kelvin, do the honours please.”

“What do you mean, aren’t you going to join us to drink? Ken looked from Katherine to Kelvin.

“I’m afraid I can’t, I have a meeting with the bank manager of one of banks we use in few minutes.”

“Permit us to toast in your name.”

She shrugged smiling. “You are hilarious, Mr Sigisfried.”

“Call me Ken please and can I call you Therine?”

“Sure.” She gave a short laugh before excusing herself.

He was almost same height with his friend, only he was more muscular with green eyes and a curlier dark hair.

*-*

 

“She is impressionable.” Kenneth said and sipped from his glass. “Little wonder…”He paused.

“Little wonder what?” He shot.

“Little wonder my never dating guy finally got himself a girlfriend. How can one have an assistant like Katherine and not get attracted?”

Kelvin shook his head as he studied the wine in his glass. “She is not my girlfriend.”

“Are you for real?” The pitch of his voice increased as he glared at him with feigned surprise and complete unbelief at his statement. “I think it’s high time I dated once again, she swept me off my feet. This can only be divinity at work.”

“You better don’t get ahead of yourself.”

“Why not?” He sombred up and looked at him. “Are you now a dog in a manger?”

Kelvin groaned but ignored him. He wasn’t going to give Kenneth the satisfaction he desired.

Kenneth stood and head towards the door.

“Where are you heading to?”

“To tell her how I feel.” Kenneth said without halting his strides.

Kelvin stood. “You had better get your butt back here!”

“Just the answer I needed.” Kenneth told him before laughing heartily and retraced his steps. He raised his tumbler. “To the lady who had made an impression in the heart of my dear friend without even knowing it.”

Kelvin chuckled. “To the Almighty for bringing you safe and sound to Nigeria. To a change in the relationship life of my bestie.” He winked.

They both laughed as their glasses clicked.

“You should tell her how you feel. Don’t let some other guy outsmart you.”

 

*-*

 

Shakirat studied the strip and then stared into space. The sting of tears thrust her out of oblivion and she blinked severally fighting them back. She discarded the strip.

They have been blessed and this was a time to celebrate.

She heaved, washed her hands and dabbed them on a towel. She looked at the full length and smiled. She strode to the sitting room and from where she stood, she felt the tension emanating from her sister.

“Congratulations!” She cooed.

Basirat turned to look at her elder sister and tears in their torrent flowed her face. Her hands trembled and her lips quivered.

“Oh no…” In a swift, Shakirat covered the distance between and took her in arms. “Hush…all will be well.”

“For two months, I have missed my menstrual period and yet I didn’t know what to make of it and I couldn’t even tell Tobi because I am so scared. Not for once did it happen after Binta.”

She smiled. “I understand, Basira, this is a silver lining amidst the cloud. Imagine you being pregnant after nine years of expectation.” Shakirat told her straightening her weave on. “This is a sign that we’ve not been marked for doom.”

Basirat burst into laughter. ‘Tobi is going to freak out when he hears I’m pregnant. He is going to be so happy. I’m so happy.” She clung to her sister. “Thank you so much, Shaki, what will I do without you?” She let out a shaky breath.

“We are family, dear.”

*** ~~~ ***

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