• Book Release

    New Release: Make It A Swap

    Victoria Kalu was in her office at Vicit Logistics where, for the most part, she spent six out of the seven days of the week working anywhere between seven to eight hours.

    Pride thrummed in her bloodstream as she crunched the numbers for last month’s performance. The seasonal surge in business pre and post the yuletide had spilled forth into January, gaining a profit margin she hoped would set the tone for the year.

    She discovered a fascination for package delivery at her first-ever job in a countrywide logistics company. The wonder of conveying goods not people from a point of origin to its destination moulded her final decision on what she wanted to do with her life.

    Logistics.

    It was a vast and versatile field, spanning from local courier delivery to freight service involving bulky commodities. She picked transporting packages as her niche. It suited her skills set, interest and budget.

    Not a lot of people had faith in her vision and her parents were at the forefront of the naysayers. They imagined a career in the state civil service in which they’d worked all their lives and had connections to influence an easy employment. If an alien spirit compelled her to go into business, it ought to be in areas more suited to a woman, like fashion and style or hospitality.

    Victoria had listened with respectful attentiveness as no less was expected of a child raised by her parents. At the end of their wise and strict counsel, she said an emphatic no and went ahead to do what her conviction dictated to be best for her.

    Nothing good came easy, and this one didn’t.

    She conducted an in-depth market research, studied and learned from the competition. She had to work harder for herself than she’d done for her employer, and this culminated in a boatload of personal sacrifices.

    The biggest sacrifice, Victoria believed, was her marriage to a man who did not understand the concept of fidelity.

    Whatever it cost her, however traumatic were the losses, she had Vicit Logistics today and pleasure rippled through her at what she had achieved.

    Without zealous cheerleaders, she might add.

    Perusing the detailed accounting records and satisfied with where they stood financially, she brought up a different document and began to work on approved shipments.

    The ding noise of their entrance door echoed into her office and her ears at once tuned in to pick up the conversation inside the outer office.

    The arrival of a client gave her a giddy thrill and she was not jaded after four years of being in business. Knowing they had a growing number of people who trusted Vicit Logistics to serve their needs spurred her on to exceed the public’s expectations, and her own.

    Among the ways to achieve this was ensuring an overall customer satisfaction experience, and it started with creating a first impression that was memorable. It was the very reason she paid personal attention whenever she was able to first-timers.

    From the bubbly exchange coming through the thin wood partition, the cultured voice talking now with her logistics officer belonged to a first-time client. Expecting Mary Stella to send her in any second now, Victoria directed her gaze to the door.

    The lady strutted in after what sounded more like a jab than a knock, bearing a carryall bag in both hands as a mother would her precious infant. Elegance dripped off her from red-sole black heels to stylishly coiffed hairdo. The two-piece pantsuit was high fashion.

    God bless the rich and sophisticated, Victoria thought, smiling as she invited her to sit. A smile steeped in warmth and charm because strictly polite would never do, not even when she had to deal with the most beetle-browed client.

    “Welcome to Vicit Logistics. How can we serve you?”

    The choice of words changed from client to client.

    “Can you assure me this will arrive in Sapele by midday tomorrow? Note,” she added in the same urgent tone that did not minimise her graceful elocution. “I’m not requesting express delivery. I only want to be certain you have a vehicle going in that direction in the morning.”

    “There’s a van leaving for Sapele at 9:45 a.m. and your package can be included in the consignment. We have vehicles making deliveries to all our listed destinations late mornings and evenings. That means your package will be ready for collection latest 11:50 a.m.”

    “That’s a huge weight off my shoulders.” A dramatic sigh indicated her relief. “It’s a present for my dearest cousin. The wedding is on Saturday but I’m flying out to Lagos in the morning and from there to Maputo. Work demand, you see. I pleaded, but my boss couldn’t consent to a few days of grace to postpone the trip.

    “Between us, I think is wouldn’t,” she confided, dropping her voice as if said boss was within earshot. “He’s a dog with a bone when it comes to time off.”

    In Victoria’s customer service code book, when a client chattered, you returned the favour.

    “I know the kind. Calling in sick on the few days I was indisposed was a tug-of-war.” She grimaced, armed herself with a cardboard box and came around the desk. “The forced presenteeism taught me a valuable lesson on dedication, which came in handy when I started out on my own.”

    “I guess what does not kill us makes us stronger.”

    “Or better. Let’s view the package, shall we?”

    “Certainly.” She lifted the bag with the same studied carefulness as she’d set it down. Then she proceeded to unload it.

    A blender, one that was popular among food content creators on the social networks, came out, followed by a cast iron skillet of undeniable superior quality, and finally a multi-purpose tool box.

    “She’s wanted this blender forever and I figured it will make up for my absence. The skillet was my initial gift, because who can resist an enamelware such as this one? What do you think?”

    “That they are thoughtful and seriously useful gifts. Your cousin will cherish them,” Victoria said sincerely.

    “I’m counting on it. The tool box is for her heartthrob. I thought it was apt because men like to fiddle with things while playing handyman, don’t they?”

    “That’s my experience.” She assembled the items in the box, weighed it on the scale, gave the weight and fee, and returned to her computer. “Fill this, please,” she said, handing over a form.

    While she did, Victoria started the computer work.

    “I must remind you that the blender is breakable.”

    “We will handle it with utmost care.” Victoria was quick to dispel her worry. “In addition, we have a safety policy that covers you should your package encounter any physical damage.”

    “That is reassuring.”

    Having included the information from the form, she received her debit card to take the payment and followed by sending a text message to the number she’d indicated as hers.

    “You can track the package via our app with the ID on the message. But as soon as the vehicle arrives and they unload it, your listed recipient will get a call from us.”

    “Much appreciated. So, they will securely wrap the items before boxing, won’t they?”

    “I will personally handle it. No need to fear.” Reaching into a drawer, she selected a Vicit Logistics branded key ring. “Here you are. A token to say thank you for using our services.”

    “But how kind. And it’s lovely, too.” Wearing a grateful smile, she rose. “I don’t send that many packages, but I’ll be sure to tell everyone I know about Vicit.”

    And there, the nonpareil word-of-mouth advertising, Victoria thought, bidding her goodbye.

    Humming a tune under her breath, she took a bubble wrap and bundled up each item separately. Then she made sure the packing material sat well in the box before boxing, sealed the package with a tape and labelled it. She tagged ‘fragile’ on it and added it to the parcels ready for pick-up at the end of the work day.

    Satisfied, she tracked back to her desk.

    *~*
     
    IT WAS ONE OF THEIR BUSIER DAYS with several more new clients coming in. Victoria arrived home in a jolly mood.

    A fist of love clasped her heart as she toed off her shoes and slipped her feet into a pair of flip-flops before exiting the foyer to step into her living room. The two-bedroom bungalow she had been lucky to find was her haven.

    How desperately she’d needed one after her separation from her ex-husband. The thought to move back in with her parents was inconceivable, more so when they vehemently protested her desire to get a divorce from her cheating husband.

    Her dear friend, Frannie Duke, now Frannie Duke-Godfrey, had come to the rescue. Her millionaire dad owned an estate with cottages and he rented her one. Like a generous Father Christmas, he waived the first year’s rent and Victoria had the breathing space to adjust to her new financial situation.

    Enrobed in contented bliss despite her tired bones, she sank into the custom-made four poster bed and settled her handbag on the leather-covered bench at the foot. Leisurely, she began to undress, taking the time to untangle her mind.

    It was a ritual after a working day and so was the cool shower she indulged in. Dressed in cotton pyjamas she headed to the kitchen to make dinner. Since she had leftover suya in the fridge, she tossed it together with bell peppers, sausage and eggs, and stir-fried a couple of Irish potatoes.

    Another ritual was to install herself on her deeply cushioned sofa, choose a channel for the evening, and eat her dinner.

    She loved life in this city, Victoria thought fondly, reminded by the report on a neighbourhood in Calabar showing on the screen.

    It was a combination of a leap towards urbanisation and a hold onto cultural history. Her parents lived in a more suburban town and two of her siblings had their homes in another part of the state. The youngest remained in Lagos even after Victoria returned from it.

    Just as well, for she met and married the love of her life there. That was according to her.

    It would be nice to have company when she ate dinner, wouldn’t it? she mused a short time later. It was too quiet when there was no one to argue over which channel covered the screen until she won. Or he did.

    She would talk about her day and he’d listen, even if only half-attentively while the replay of matches got the other half of his attention. And when she climbed into bed he’d be there to hold and keep her warm.

    She would have all that if Gregory Nwanna hadn’t concluded he preferred to have a child with a woman that was not his wife. Chewing on a spicy piece of meat, Victoria brooded over the man she’d believed she would stay married to until death did them part.

    It was he who didn’t want to start a family straightaway. They agreed on two children, but why not enjoy the first three years of their marriage alone?

    So, she put herself on contraceptives. It suited her because she could do more for her company without the encumbrances of motherhood, while he climbed higher up the career ladder of an investment banker.

    After two years, he broke their pact and his vows to her. The woman was several years younger than Victoria, and for a bunch of unclear reasons, it rubbed salt into the wound. An even more horrible fact was that she’d been blissfully ignorant until he confessed, and only because his side chick wound up pregnant.

    Grunting in her throat, a little annoyed with herself, Victoria pulled the brake on thinking about Gregory. The man had disrupted her life and she sat in her living room nursing memories of him. She was lonely. Surely, that had to be the reason.

    And if she was lonely, then she’d buy herself a pet.

    Actively weighing the pros and cons of a kitten, or it could be a puppy, she finished dinner, took care of the dishes and perched again in front of the television.

    Her phone rang just as she pegged the puppy as winner. There was no need to tempt the superstitious nature of her neighbours with a cat, or her mother’s when she visited.

    “Fran, I’m going to buy a puppy,” she announced into the device’s mouthpiece.

    “Hello to you, too,” Frannie replied after a sputtered laugh.

    Victoria threw herself back on the sofa and stretched out her legs. “Hello. Good evening. How’s Ejaife? Have I covered all the bases?”

    “You forgot to ask how the baby in the womb and I are doing.” The ring of amusement remained in her girlfriend’s voice. “What’s up with you?”

    “I suddenly feel lonely. Can’t for the life of me say why it popped out of nowhere and hit me, but I wish I had a man right here with me.”

    “Poor darling. See why I suggested at Christmas that you start dating.”

    Her one attempt after the divorce came to mind and Victoria glowered at the chandelier lights. “He was a misogynist and wanted a woman who would pay obeisance to him.”

    “So you wisely said no to a third date and should have met other people, not creep back into your shell. It’s a man you need, not a puppy, Vic.”

    “I am not ready, Fran.”

    “It’s a year since the final decree on your divorce, longer since your separation.”

    “Not long enough.”

    “Really? Pray tell, how long will be long enough?”

    Victoria couldn’t stipulate a time frame. However, it still didn’t feel right to welcome a man into her life this soon after the collapse of her marriage.

    “I’m going to give myself more time to heal and be mind, heart and spirit ready to be in a relationship again.”

    There was a significant pause before Frannie asked in a quiet tone, “Is that what you’re doing, giving yourself more time to heal? Or are you trying to live up to the dignified idea of how long society thinks a woman should wait before she moved on with her life after the end of a marriage?”

    The question hit a nerve even when half a minute ago she’d had a similar thought in her head.

    Similar, but not the same, because gender-dictated rules set by faceless people did not determine her choices, Victoria promptly disputed.

    Or did they?

    __-__-__

    Make It A Swap is available on Amazon Kindle. And also available for download on Selar:

    https://selar.co/52xe87

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