Air escaped Katherine’s lungs as she stepped past the huge gate in relief. She should have known and taken a cab from home regardless of the cost. She was sure the cost was nothing compared to the embarrassment she got on her way to work.
The embarrassment, unnecessary politeness and invitation to bus chat. To top it, two guys had offered to pay her bus fare and asked for a phone number she didn’t even have.
She turned and her lips parted into an apologetic smile.
“Katherine, you’re actually the one, I thought I was seeing things.” Squinting, he scrutinized her.
“Good morning, sir. I meant to tell you on Thursday but you were in a meeting. I am now an appointed secretary.”
“Hey,” He beamed. “Congratulations child, you look so beautiful.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“I’ll send up a congratulatory gift later in day.”
Katherine nodded with a smile and made to continue her strides when she took a glance at the security office, an unusual number of them stood in front and it was just few minutes before seven but then she stared and agape mouths began to close and look away in embarrassment.
The security guy who had asked Mr Sayo about her on the day she sought employment, Abbey scooted towards her as if walking would make him change his mind.
He had wooed her once and admired from a distance after being politely turned down. “Em… Katherine.” He caught up with her. “I… I want to advise you.”
She halted to listen.
“I don’t think you need the cleaning nor the secretary job, the form of the most beautiful girl in Nigeria is on sale and you should get one for yourself. I can give you half the money for the form.” He met her gaze. “You don’t need the wand of a fairy godmother for everything to fall in place. You are qualified already.”
She grinned. “I really appreciate your looking out for me, Abbey, but you know what I’m going to say in answer.”
“I know.” He nodded. “Your beauty is beyond all I’ve set my eyes on even in screen.” That said, he scooted away.
Katherine glanced at the departing figure before heading to her destination.
She sneezed and then remembered a superstitious belief that sneezing can be prompted when one name is being mentioned or discussed about. She reached for a hanky knowing she was going to be the major topic for gossip.
“Good morning sir.”
Kelvin strode in, in fitted white long sleeved shirt and black cotton pants, looking like a sailor with black shoes. He held a brief case which he always refused help with.
“Good morning. Hope we have a precious week.” He beamed.
“Sure.” She affirmed.
He glanced around. “Where is SI’s newest secre…?”
She emerged from the lobby in an animal print blazer over black sleeveless blouse and pencil skirt with cream three inches high shoes and a matching hand bag. She had her name tag just below where the customized signature of the company was. Her hair was half parted in a slant, wrap-around and pinned with matching colour of hair clips. A curled strand graced a side of her face.
“Oh -my- God!” Precious exclaimed before glancing at Kelvin. Was he seeing what was before her?
“Good morning, sir. Good morning, Precious.” Her smile revealed dimples on her cheeks.
“Good morning, Katherine.” He had been mesmerized at the transformation but was quick to recover. Position and authority was all about control and he did have it in abundance. “Ready to take up new challenges?”
“Welcome on board then. You look splendid.” That said, he headed for his office.
“Thank you.” She called after him.
“Wow!” Precious scrutinized her over from head to toe, taking in every detail of her physical appearance. “You look so—so amazing! Tell me how many admirers you got on your way here.”
Katherine rolled her eyes before shaking her head.
“Wait…” She covered the distance between them. “Is this your natural hair?” She touched it. “Ha, no wonder you’ve been covering your hair.”
“Precious leave me alone jare.” She said dismissively before rounding the desk to sit.
“It’s unfair na; what people like us are looking for.” Precious continued, unperturbed as she patted her weave-on and pouted with slumped shoulders.
Katherine couldn’t help but chuckle.
Katherine was reading the book Precious had gotten for her from the company’s library when Kelvin entered from his office.
“How has it been?”
“Splendid.” She stood with a finger between the pages of the book.
“Just left for lunch.”
“What are you waiting for?”
“All right.” He walked away.
One of the security officers delivered a can coke and mince pie courtesy of Mr Sayo to her a few minutes later. After thanking him profusely, she placed it in her bag.
Precious returned with a nylon. “Katherine, you should have come to the cafeteria, the admin director bought this for all the secretaries.” She placed the nylon in front of her. “I got this for you.”
“So considerate of you, thank you.”
“Next time you should join me.” She slumped into her seat. “Don’t tell me you there already.” Her gaze fixed where Katherine had a finger in between the book.
“So fast? That’s the opposite of me.” She glanced at the table clock. “I will nap for fifteen minutes.”
“Provided you don’t snore.”
Precious shot her a warning gaze before she closed her eyes.
Katherine stood and headed for the rest room
“Sir, it is like a puzzle to me that a cleaner could know so much.” Precious was seated in Kelvin’s office. “If am to be honest, I will say there is nothing she learnt from me instead I have learnt from her. When I speak, she just listens to me as if what I’m saying was new, watch me practise and when I give her opportunity, I get to raise my brows astonished for she does it perfectly. Severally, I’ve been compelled to ask her if she had ever had formal education to that effect.”
“And what she did say?”
Precious chuckled. “Katherine said that if that had been the case she would neverhave seen the four walls of SIC’s cleaning wing.”
Kelvin laughed. “So, she is hilarious.”
“Sometimes, but she barely talks.” Precious shrugged. “The only problem I have with her is that she has never gone for lunch.”
“You should buy for her then.”
“She won’t accept; she has made that very clear.”
Kelvin raised a brow.
“Sir, you were right when you told her she was well able.” Precious beamed.
“Well…” He drummed his fingers on his desk. “That was a satisfactory report I suppose she can move on.”
“I have something for you two for making things very easy for me so far when you get back from the account department.”
“Okay, sir.’ Precious said happily before excusing herself.
Kelvin stood and ambled to the fridge in the sitting wing of his office to pour himself an orange flavoured yoghurt.
“I need your prayers, Katherine.” They were in the elevator returning from a meeting.
“What is wrong?” Her brows narrowed.
“My responsibility skyrocketed last weekend. You know that early next month, the best secretary in SI will be appointed an executary. I need the job and extra cash.” She had lost her mum at an early age, her father had suffered partial stroke a year before and lost his job. Precious had to cater for him and her three younger brothers and sister, being the first.
Katherine took her hand as they walked out of the elevator. “Do your best and God will crown that effort with good success.”
“Amen.” She claimed and then a smile spread over the frown that had etched her face.
“What?” She looked away to adjust two potted plant.
“The boss, he has something for us.” She announced gleefully before pulling her towards his wing.
“There.” He placed two paper bags containing three litres of fruit juice and tin biscuit packs each on the desk.
“Thank you very much. This is quite generous of you, sir.”
He glanced at her, behind Precious. He saw her reluctance.
Precious caught a glimpse of the content. “Oops!” Her eyes gleamed excitedly. “Thank you, sir.”
Katherine followed her cue and stepped forward. “Thank you very much, sir.”
“Welcome.” He answered.
They each picked their paper bags and made to leave.
“Katherine, could your please stay back for a minute?”
Her spirit sank. She turned towards his direction with lowered gaze.
“I don’t force people to accept things I give out willingly. If you don’t want it, you can reject it instead of tagging along.” Having expressed himself, he felt pained. Why couldn’t she just let go and be free? Why was she different?
“I’m—I’m sorry sir.” She sensed the disappointment portrayed in his voice.
“Do you want to return it?”
“No, sir.” She glanced at his face but he didn’t look angry. “I am sorry.”
“It’s okay, Katherine.” He fought the urge to ask her to sit and find out why she was antisocial but he feared her rejection.
She excused herself and when she got out, heaved a sigh of relief.
Precious couldn’t help but jump in the elevator unable to contain her elation.
“Take it easy, ma’am, you’re in the elevator.” Katherine advised, grinning.
“Easy is not in my dictionary right now.” She made to do an Edo dance steps using the envelope in her hand to improvise a handkerchief.
Katherine burst into laughter. “Congratulations, girl.”
“Thanks for your prayers and all.” She reached out and gave her a bear hug.
Precious got out of the elevator first, jumped and twirled.
Kelvin slowed his pace, eventually halting so he wouldn’t bump into her. “That’s the spirit, girl.”
Precious froze. “Oh… em…sir… I’m…” Her gaze was fixed on her shoes as she flushed in embarrassment.
“Congratulations.” He strode out with lips winged out into a smile.
Katherine who had witnessed all, burst into stifled laughter.