“How come you’re eating when you came in from lunch break some minutes ago?’ Katherine went close to the side table with a saucer of peanuts and two cans of malt, one was opened and the other wasn’t.
She wedged the unopened can between her thumb and index finger, she raised it up in such a way that it went up in the air in spins and yielded to gravitational force, straight to her stretched out left palm.
‘Wow!’ Kelvin smiled impressed. “Can you handle throwing and catching more than one?”
“I can do more than one.” He looked up at her.
“You haven’t answered my question and wouldn’t you ask me to sit.”
“No sensible man denies his lady a seat, do take seat. Kathy I wish you went down to lunch, you needed to see the way Olaide cracked all of our ribs. I haven’t stopped smiling since I came in. Join me.” He gestured.
‘Thanks, I am not interested in lunch but I’m keeping this.” She raised the can, she was now comfortably seated opposite him.
‘Kayla called and asked that I extend her warmth to you, she referred to you as her diamond, why is that?
She managed to keep a straight face. “Kel, you’d to find out from her.”
He focused his striking eyes.
She held his gaze with a blank expression.
Kelvin glanced at the TV.
“Since I’m back, you should go on vacation.”
He looked at her with a bemuse smile but said nothing.
‘Dearie, I’m worried about you, the rate at which you’re going. If you don’t rest, your body will demand it forcefully.”
“My body wouldn’t dare for I rest in my own way. Kathy, do I look stressed out?’
“You don’t have to, not every eventualities comes with signs. I know how you’ve been working of late.”
“Darling, I’m doing great. Can’t see me less.” He beamed.
She stood. “Freedom of expression is the right of every human, I’ve done that, nevertheless, the choice is still yours to make.”
He looked up at her. ‘I am in excellent health and I’ll go on vac but not now. When I do, it will be so long and compensating that you will be among the first that will call and say, Kel, can you please show your face around even if it is ten minutes?” He mimicked her. “I’ll smile and say, remember Kathy I told you.”
She tilted her head. “Oh yeah?”
“Yeah.” He laughed.
“Very well then.” She glanced at her wristwatch. “The DG of SIC JAPAN will be online with me in less than ten minutes.”
He nodded excusing her. He watched her leave, a question lied paramount in his mind.
Did she just take him as friend and a boss?
Hand in hand, they strolled in the Muritala Muhammed Memorial Botanical Garden at Epe.
“This is a lovely beauty.” She glanced around. “Nothing thrills me better than nature.”
“A feeling of purifying peace is all I inhale.” Kelvin smiled.
“But Kel,” She turned to face him. “Like I said over the phone, I wasn’t expecting an outing today. I anticipated you resting maximally.”
His gaze swept around. “Don’t you like this garden?”
“Kelvin…” She called impatiently and slipped a palm into her jeans pocket. “You sure do know I love this place but you understand what I mean only try to show your skills in trying to cut corn…”
“Kayla and Kenneth are dating.” He stated with eyes trained on her.
“Pardon me.” She blinked feigning surprise.
“Kayla and Kenneth are dating.”
“Is that supposed to be a good news or is something wrong with it?” Her head was inclined.
“Katherine, if you eventually have something to do with the entertainment industry, you’ll make a great actress. Queen Innocentina…” He sized her up. “Don’t you dare pull that stunt with me because I am ready to shake you until you spill it all out, so what will it be dear darling?” He whispered.
She glanced around but no one was paying attention to them. “I can dare Kelvin but it’s rather unfortunate that I’m not in the mood.” She chuckled as his facial expression remained.
She took his left arm in her right arm and they began to stroll. “How did you figure that?”
“Kenneth called me last night to inform me. I was so astonished that I didn’t believe. I had to call Kay who confirmed the news and added that she intended to call the day after to inform me. I am telling you Kathy.” He placed his free palm on his chest. “My flabber was over gasted.”
Katherine burst into laughter.
Eventually they sat to talk.
“Come in.” Katherine said without looking up from the writing she was doing.
“Ma, he refused to deliver it to me.” Anita told her.
Her pen suspended in a writing pose and her free palm came over her forehead. “Anita I’m busy, I don’t intend to leave this office till I’m ready to go home and I don’t need the slightest form of distraction. Do I have to repeat that?”
‘I’m very sorry ma, I explained to him but he insisted that the instruction was that he should deliver it to you and your signature is required. He would rather come back tomorrow than have me receive it.”
“It’s okay Anita, you can go back.” She stood and sighed.
She slipped the sealed envelope into her handbag before sinking into her high back executive seat and sipped water before concentrating on her earlier work.
Through with her prayers before bed, she stood to switch off the light when she remembered the letter she had received earlier in the day and rushed to the location of her bag.
She unsealed the envelope, the stamp in gold and the signature in between that couldn’t be challenged in her present world first caught her eyes and then quickened her heart beats.
She read the letter and was dazed.
She was to permanently resume the post of the DG in SIC Texas in a month time.
As soon as he got to the car park and saw her car, he sighed.
For the past week, she had become withdrawn and avoided him as much as she could. She only came out of her office when she had something important to do out of it. And of course turned down every invite to lunch or an outing.
Every time he got to the car park, it is either she had left or she was still in the office unlike in time past when they usually left simultaneously. He had confronted her but her response had been.
“Nothing kel, I’m okay.”
Reluctantly, he went to his car and drove out. It was going to be another night of tossing from one side of the bed to the other and he wasn’t looking forward to it.
He sighed once more and massaged his forehead with a palm.
“Come in.” She dropped the folder on the desk before rounding it to sit.
Kelvin took a step in.
“Why are you standing there, come in and sit?”
“Are you sure you really want me to sit?’ He met her gaze.
“If you don’t want to sit, take a step back and close the door behind you, thanks.” She scrolled through her phone.
His brows arched. That was unlike her, what in the world was wrong with her?
“That was icy dear and I said that because of the way you’ve been acting lately.” He pulled a chair and sat. He looked at a professional photo of her hung on the wall. He glanced around the office suddenly. ‘Katherine, what has been happening to you?”
“Nothing.” She began flipping through the files on the table.
“Katherine if something is wrong, you should talk to me.”
She opened a drawer and handed him the unsealed envelope.
“This is it?” He looked up at her after going through the letter.
“Yes, that is it.” She sat back on her sat and frowned. “If I’m moving permanently to Texas, I feel my opinion should be asked before this mandatory letter is sent.”
“Oh…” He raised a hand. “You received this letter over a week ago and my father called to inform me last night. Nevertheless Katherine, you never intended to confront me at least.” His palm descended on his chest and his eyes didn’t leave her face. He was disappointed.
She felt guilty and couldn’t respond immediately. The past week had been tormenting for her, no one to talk to and all. “If I am to leave SIC Nigeria for USA, is it possible to leave just like that? Are there no protocol governing a transfer?”
“I didn’t know until last night and I expected you to have hurled your dissatisfaction at me rather than treating me like a leper.”
“I’m very sorry sir.” She sensed the anger he tried so well to curtail. ‘My attitude was childish.”
He stood and head towards the door.
She stood in disbelief. “Kelvin, I’m sorry.”
“You have to do better than that ’cause I expected better from you.” He closed behind him.
“Kelvin.” She whispered as tears formed in her eyes. She shifted her weight from one foot to the other. How was she going to apologize to him, she had never seen him so upset?
They remained in each other arms.
Her eyes were scrunched shut. She felt and knew it, that she love him. She was convinced when he walked out on her angry, she knew she didn’t want to hurt him at all. He was a combination of a big brother, confidant, her best friend, her boss and lot more.
She exhaled. She knew the distance was going to be more of a confirmation. She just hope she didn’t come running back in a couple of days.
He felt the box of engagement ring in the inner pocket of his suit.
The very one he had shopped for while in Latin American before going back to Nigeria. He smiled as her familiar scent infiltrated his nostrils. What was in thinking when he slipped the box into his suit that morning, proposing to her in the airport?
He knew more than ever that it wouldn’t be long, not with the distance and other men he knew wouldn’t think twice when they saw no evidence on her left palm. Her potentials were too glaring to be ignored.
He exhaled. It wouldn’t be long.
He kissed her forehead. “I’ll miss you.”
When he got no response, he pulled her back and looked into her eyes.
He saw tears and her vulnerability.
‘I don’t want to go.’ She cooed puppy faced.
“Daddy said if you are unable to pull the Texas branch back on track, he will have no choice than to shut it. He must have seen something dynamic in you.” He looked into her eyes. “I love you Kathy and I believe you sometimes more I believe in me. Who knows the number of lives waiting for magical touch?”
She searched his expression. “I love you Kelvin Sigismund and I will miss like… I may get to Texas and just to board the next available flight back.”
Kelvin chuckled at the serious expression on her face and pulled her into his arms.
Just then they announced her flight.
Her gaze swept all of the faces present at the conference. “From all I said, I need contribution.”
The managing director put up his right hand.
“Yes Mr Jenkins.” Katherine smiled.
Jenkins stood and adjusted his blazers. “Even if there is a huge capital investment, a favourable market system and so, it will amount to nothing.”
The dethroned director general, now executive director, Zachary sprang to his feet. “What the heck are you talking about? If you simply don’t know what to say, jam your feet into your mouth and seal your trap Jenkins!”
“Zack, your sadism pisses me off. This is the last time I’ll have you insult in front of everyone.” He warned with an index finger. “Why didn’t you give the needed comment since you know it all but with the blasting slap that hit your face, I will pop open a champagne if you can think straight!’ The slap he was referring to was his drop in position.
Some booed while others cooed.
Zachary left his position to meet Jenkins. “I’ll make sure you swallow your words back, you Blabber!’ They were standing face to face, with that of the ED red and his fist were formed on both sides.
“Our dear MD ain’t blabbing, we all know things have not been the same for our dear boss.” The female execretary said on her feet giggling.
‘Oh keep quiet you whore!” Zachary turned towards in her position. “When you share his bed, how can be Blabber?”
Katherine blinked severally to be sure she wasn’t having a day mare.
“That is out of point to us here, Mr ex DG, how do you intend to make Mr Jenkins swallow his words, do you have assassins as friends now?” Someone from the advertisement department said using his formed fist as feigned microphone.
Some burst into laughter.
She placed a palm over her mouth to prevent her jaw from dropping.
“If anything ever happens to the MD, Mr Zachary wouldn’t need court trials before he is jailed for we are more than enough witnesses.” Another said.
Some cheered before the uproar between the supporters and opposers.
Katherine stood from her seat and went to the exit where two security officers were on each side of the door.
“Excuse me.” She said more to the elderly of both. “Is this the conference room or a place designated for some minutes of madness?”
“It is the conference room ma.”
“Are you sure?” She glanced at both of them.
“Yes ma.” They chorused.
She asked for the club with the elderly security officer and was brisk to her earlier position.
They had completely forgotten about her as they were locked down in a battle of words.
With all the energy she could muster, she strike the on the club on the desk twice. “I demand a pin drop silence!”
They all stared at her.
She pointed the club with her head tilted to a side and her eyes sparkling in anger. “You had all better get down to your seats or I’d take you aback as you’ve done to me!”
Some sat down baffled at her reaction.
“What absolute rubbish! In my entire life, I’ve never seen nor heard such display of madness in a conference room among supposedly educated people, adults for that matter.” Her voice was at its loudest and she looked at those standing as if she was committing their faces to memory.
They all sat save the ED.
“You all acted like you were in a market place, oh no…” She paused thoughtful. “I’ve been made to realise that there are no market places here and in places where buyers and sellers come in contact so exchange of goods and services can take place, things are done in decorum. Even in countries like mine, market places can be linked with noise, our conference meetings are never an epitome of this rascally behaviour. I’m highly disappointed in you all, I am disappointed in you most because you’re the most accountable here.”
He met her gaze in a dangerous way with his nose flaring.
A pin drop prevailed as they looked up.
“I asked for a contribution and he gave me one. It is solely my decision to commend or object to what Jenkins said. You have no right whatsoever to question his statement.”
‘Katherine, ‘ He called spitefully. ‘I won’t have you insult me, hell no!’
‘Hell yes Zachary, I’ll tell you truth.”
“You wouldn’t dare Katherine… this is not Nigeria where…”
“Zachary, look at me clearly or maybe you do need a hanky to wipe the perspiration off your face, I am not the MD nor the head to any of the departments. I am the Director General Sigismund International Company, Texas, if you don’t put your butt on the seat now, I will have you thrown out of the waters of this company.”
“Security,” She called and they walked briskly to her side.
She handed over the club. “Throw him out.”
They approached him with unwavering steps.
Defeated, Zachary waved them off and went to sit.
“Thank you gentlemen, you may now excuse us.” Katherine raised a finger to point. “You, and you over there, remove that gum in your mouth or excuse us.”
They stood for the nearest waste can immediately.
Afterwards she had with them the longest talk she ever gave in her career.
The intercom on the desk buzzed and she pressed the receive button.
“Mr Martins is here to see you.”
“Mr Zachary Martin is here to see you ma.”
‘”Look at him well Evelyn, is he with a pen knife, gun?”
“No.” Her secretary giggled.
“Let him come in.” Katherine dropped her pen. Was this going to be another exchange?
“Good morning Miss Sylvester, may I come in?” Zachary was standing past the door.
Her eyes scrutinize him.
“I come in peace, can I please come in?”
He removed his hands which had been behind him and produce a bunch of beautiful flowers. “I got this for you as a sign of peace.”
“Emmm… hold them for some seconds, I need to wash my face.” She gestured towards the rest room as she stood.
“Miss Sylvester,” He lowered his gaze. “You’re not seeing things, I’m the one.”
Her lips curved into a smile as she received it. “Thank you. I really love its fragrance.” She sat. “Take seat.”
“It’s such a shame that I’ve been so rude and I hope that you’ll forgive me.” He expelled a breath.
Silence prevailed as she studied him. “Can I know the reason for your attitude and change of mind within forty eight hours?”
“SIC Texas used to be US headquarters until Mr Sigismund left it for Japan and things all of a sudden began to go under. The big one came when I made a presentation of an outdated information in an important meeting.” He shook his head. “I tried to redeem myself but it became a case of using nine fingers to remove oil smear on a finger. Things have never remained the same for me and for others. For in as much I try to take charge, they keep slipping off my hand. I became temperamental. I lost it all.” He sighed.
Katherine sat back.
“The competition was there, SIC Japan, Brazil, USA, Nigeria, South Africa and others. I had the dream of making this company one of SIC finest in all ramification. I had all the plans but they came crashing that day at the conference.
That night, I got myself drunk and found myself on the front door of my fiancée’s home. She sent me out to the cold night and would not forgive me until I promised never to take alcohol for any reason at all.” He smiled.
Katherine smiled too.
“She has been my solace in all these.” Zachary met her gaze briefly. “You came along and displaced me and I felt so incompetent and I can see the employees sticking out their tongues at me just by looking at their face. I felt bitter, furious and couldn’t help my ruthlessness. My fiancée and I met yesterday evening and because of my attitude, she knew something was wrong and made me own up. She did give me that head clearing slap you wanted to give me yesterday.” He gave a short laugh. “She said to me -if you do get throw out of that company because of your excuse of an attitude, consider me out of your life. Helpless, I asked for her advice.”
He looked at Katherine and all she saw was a man whose ego has been bruised.
“I understand that I don’t deserve this opportunity and some others would have thrown me out on the first day, please Miss Sylvester, please forgive me. This work now mean so much to me, my engagement to the love of my life, my sanity, my…”
“It’s okay Zachary.” She drummed her fingers on the desk thoughtful. “Show me a man who is successful and I assure you he know what it means to make mistakes and the true definition of failure. I know it wouldn’t be easy but servitude and humility would have lifted you eventually. I believe you now know that termination of employments and bitterness just keep complicating matters. Your fiancée belongs to the class of people I love to meet.”
Katherine sat forward and placed a palm under her chin with her brows narrowed. “Maybe I should base your forgiveness on that.”
Zachary chuckled. “She will be thrilled to meet you Miss Sylvester.”
“Do call me Katherine…I insist Zachary.” She added when he began to shake his head.
I’m so happy things are beginning to fall into place, the bad eggs have been discarded. I personally saw to the interview of their replacement.
All hands are now on deck and some of us spend extra time after work to facilitate improvement.
I’ve also met a couple of neighbours.
Katherine stifled a yawn as the studied the slides.
She blinked and when the urge to yawn came again, she didn’t stifle it.
Her customized ringtone penetrated the silence in the office for the second time.
She gasped. Without looking at the screen of the phone she knew Kelvin was the caller as she had a special ring tone for him.
“No…no…” She shook her head and moved her chair backward. “I won’t pick it.”
When it began to sing for the third time, she stood and placed a palm on her head as the guilty feeling washed over her.
She flicked the icon button the fourth time.
“Kathy, I’ve been calling you like forever, are you okay?”
“Have you had dinner?”
“Emmm…I was…” She closed her eyes. “I’m about to…I’m still…”
“You’re still in the office?”
“Yes.” She whispered.
“Katherine, this is about three hours past SIC TEXAS closing time. For goodness sakes Katherine, that was not the basis of your appointment. What did I tell you last week?’ He tried not to raise his voice.
She opened her eyes to glance at the wall clock. ‘You said I shouldn’t stay more than an hour after the close of work.”
“I’m glad you remember because I hope you won’t think I’m an extremist when I employ the services of a guard to ensure you’re home at the right time.”
“Kel…I can explain.”
“I allowed you explain the last time and I won’t have this time. I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve not had lunch.”
Katherine bit her lower lips and prayed in her mind, she didn’t want him to be angry with her.
“I guess that’s a yes, you know what… as a matter of fact, good…”
“I’m very sorry darling, I promise not to…”
“Call me when you’re home and have eaten. I will keep my eyes glued to the time.”
“Jeez.” She muttered when the disconnecting tone hit her ear drum. She fetched her handbag, switched all appliances before hurrying out.