Katherine Sylvester alighted from the bus, clutching the duffel bag handle on her shoulder. With her free hand, she straightened the black dress she had on with its yellow belt strapped around her waist. A yellow beret was shaped to one side with her jet black long hair tucked inside and on her feet was a pair of black strapped sandals.
She stood five feet, seven inches tall and that height was made visible by a long shadow as she waited for a bus to zoom off before crossing to the other side of the road. Her skin colour reminded one of chocolate, her brows were full and her face oblong and free off make-up. She didn’t look slim or fat and her beauty was best described as alluring since it was difficult not to steal a second glance at her.
It was past 9 a.m., the sun was already up in the sky but she hastened her steps, indifferent to it. She had three streets to go before she got to a bus stop where she would board a bus home.
Deciding to take the shortest route, she veered to the street across her. A street obviously that of the wealthy as she exhaled due to relief from the rays of the sun by the shady trees and cool caress of breeze. As was expected, it was quiet too. She sighed, feeling thirsty but she thought against waiting for a minute under a shade.
All handy men and women were off to work, even children were in school. Katherine scampered on oblivious to the bark of dogs or the cat calls of gatekeepers who were idly outside.
She veered and admired the street for it looked like a boulevard with magnificent buildings, and it dawned on her that she hadn’t taken the route before. Halfway through the street, a building made her slow her pace. It was the administrative building of an industrial but popular organization. It was extravagantly yet impeccably designed.
The notice board just by pedestrian gate made her halt, the services of a cleaner was needed.
Katherine lips parted into a smile, it was like an answer to her prayer. She wanted to work this time where she can see what it was like for people who have actualized her kind of dream if all things had been equal.
She approached the gigantic gate.
“Good morning, sir.” She was face to face with a uniformed security man and noticed about five other pair of careful eyes watching her.
“Good morning. How may I help you?” He gave her an encouraging smile.
“I came concerning the notice I saw outside.”
“That is not the kind of job for you.” The elderly man said with a scrutinizing look.
“I know, sir, but I need it.” She stated simply, not embarrassed.
After few seconds of consideration, he spoke. “Walk to your right as though you intend going round the building, you will see a detached building. Ask for the head cleaner and express yourself.”
“Thank you very much, sir.” She beamed in gratitude.
“You’re welcome.” He returned and watched her leave. Such a well-mannered girl and a beauty too, why would she want to do that kind of job? he thought.
“Oga,” One of the younger security men called. “Who is she?” His eyes were still on the retreating figure.
“Ask me again!” He snapped and his colleagues burst into laughter.
The neatness and serenity of her environment until she got to the building amazed her. She took deep breath before knocking. The door was opened by a woman in her mid-fifties.
“Good morning, ma.” She genuflected.
“Welcome, my pikin. Wetin I fit do for you?” She had an overall on top of her clothes.
Katherine knew that to obtain favour from people you have to speak to them in a language best understood by them. “I dey ask of the head cleaner.”
“Na me be that.” She answered proudly. “Wetin you want?”
“I come because of the notice wey I see outside.”
“You wan apply?” She asked, retaining her smile but studying the young lady with motherly eyes.
“Okay, my pikin, come inside.” She stood aside for her. “Si-don.” She gestured to a chair.
An unmistakable coolness took over the hotness she had felt. Air condition in the cleaners’ wing! That wasn’t the only surprise though; there were about twelve black chrome vinyl chair around a centre table. The floor was covered with modern tiles.
She sat and the head cleaner sat across of her. She heard voices from an inner room.
Katherine filled the form she was given and handed it over.
After glancing through the form, she spoke. “I know say girl like you no suppose do this job but anything fit happen for life and me,” She placed a palm on her chest. ‘I don get my share but person suppose chop and live like person. I don de work here for fifteen years.”
“Woah!” Katherine quipped. “That na long time, you deserve the post wey you get.”
The HC grinned. “Ha, my pikin! I de happy for the post wella, less work, more money but I deserve am. Back to business like Oyibo people de say …” She adjusted herself on the seat and laughed. “To be cleaner here, you go de serious and hardworking. Our Oga kpatakpata like make everywhere dey neat pass hospital. We de resume seven make we fit tidy everywhere before workers go come by eight. We go start you with twenty-five thousand. If you do your work well, after six months, we go top am. Na Monday to Friday. Shey you ready to work?”
“Yes ma.” That would be the highest salary she would ever earn and she was enthusiastic.
“You go start next tomorrow.”
“Thank you very much, ma.”
“Thank God, my pikin. This place no be like any other office, we no get anything to give you except water.”
“I am okay, ma, thank you.” She stood and genuflected.
“When you come on Monday, we go show and give you everything you go need.” She was seeing her off when the phone began to ring. “Emmm… I no go fit follow you reach gate.”
“Yes ma, goodbye ma.” She said before the HC hurried inside.
Shading her eyes with a palm, she looked up at the skyscraper to see the name – SIGISMUND INTERNATIONAL. Back in secondary school she knew it was owned by an African American. She headed towards the way she came and the security man met her.
“Any hope of seeing you soon?” He asked almost in a whisper because he could see the other security man’s ear elongating.
“Yes.” Katherine beamed. “Thank you very much, sir.”
“Thank God, miss. See you then.”
On sighting a mart, she decided to quench her thirst.