Ochuko bent her head and worked on the pile of files before her, she had greeted only a few of her colleagues and had focused on her work afraid that the bruise on her cheek would be noticed. After their spat last night, Vuoke had gone to bed and had not apologized to her as he normally would. This morning, he had woken up and taken his bath not bothering to rouse her. She had woken up to see him wearing his neck-tie and standing before the mirror.
“Good morning.” She had greeted.
“I am leaving in five minutes, if you can catch up with me, then do so.” He’d said.
She had nodded, gotten out of bed and entered the bathroom. By the time she was out of the bathroom, he was gone. Ochuko had the spare keys of the house so she readied herself for work and had stepped out of the house wondering how to get a bus to work. Luckily for her, Vuoke’s neighbour, Kevin was heading out at the same time and his office wasn’t far from hers.
“Thank God I saw you right on time.” She had said.
He’d looked at her and smiled. Ochuko waved at Kevin’s wife who was walking her husband to the car and they had exchanged pleasantries. Ochuko could tell that from the cautious glances Kevin threw her way, he knew what went on in Vuoke’s flat.
Most times, when Vuoke decided to change his profession to boxing, her screams could be heard miles away as she had a low threshold for pain and there was no doubt that Vuoke’s neighbours heard her cries. As they drove through the third mainland bridge, Kevin said to her.
“The weather is cold, can I turn off the air conditioning?”
“Of course you can.” She’d replied. “I’m cold too.”
“Your office seems to be under-going some sort of construction. I walked pass the office some days ago and saw that there were changes.”
“Yes.” She said, happy to be conversing. “We are remodelling our building but it’s only done during the weekends. My boss’s son has finally taken over management and he wants a new look.”
“That’s good.” Kevin said.
“Yes, it is. The management is thinking of extending construction days to Fridays which means that our workdays will soon be cut short to four days every week.”
“That sounds interesting.” Kevin had said.
“Yes it is…it means more free time for me especially now that we are planning…” She caught herself and bit her tongue.
“You are planning what…” He asked.
“Errm…it’s nothing really but Vuoke proposed and we’re planning a wedding.”
Kevin turned to look at her, he was alarmed.
“I’m sorry but what did you say?” He asked.
“I said that Vuoke and I are getting married.”
He sighed and said nothing.
“You sound surprised.” She’d said. “Vuoke and I have been in a relationship for quite some time.”
“A relationship? It looks more like a situation-ship to me.” He said.
Ochuko kept silent and stared at the road ahead.
“I am sorry that I am saying this but if you were my sister or my friend, I won’t allow you get into something that can destroy your life.” He’d said.
“He loves me.” Ochuko said.
“I am not doubting that.” Kevin said in reply.
Ochuko was uncomfortable, she didn’t like speaking about her private life to those she hardly knew. When he’d dropped her at the front of her office, she’d said her thanks and stepped out of the car.
Now, as she typed on her keyboard, she pondered on her conversation with Kevin. She didn’t know when her colleague walked up to her desk.
“Ochuko, you’re are needed at the new GM’s office.”
Ochuko didn’t hear, she was still deep in thought.
She startled and lifted up her head in fright.
“My goodness! What happened to you?” Her colleague asked. “Your cheek is bruised.”
“I…err…I hit my face against a doorframe.” She lied.
“How come? Was everywhere dark?” Her colleague asked in concern. “You need to place an icepack over your cheek.”
“What were you telling me earlier?” Ochuko asked.
“The new GM needs to see you.”
Ochuko nodded and made her way out of her desk, heading to the new GM’s office.
Fred was on the phone with Bisiola when Ochuko knocked at his door and stepped into his office.
“I need to go now, work calls. I’ll see you tonight?” He asked with a smile and dropped the call.
Ochuko stared at her boss, he was so attractive and so endearing. She took in deep breaths as for some reason, he made her heart flutter.
“Ochuko, I am so glad to see you. Good morning.” Fred greeted, turning to look at her, then he froze. “What in the world happened to your face?”
“I fell.” She lied.
“How did you fall? Did you fall with your face facing the ground? Are you some sort of Man O War recruit?”
She smiled despite her situation.
“No, it was an accident…a domestic one.”
He walked over to her and said.
She nodded and she held her breath as he examined her face.
“It looks as though you received a slap.” He said.
“Errm…can we get to work? Why did you send for me?” She said quickly.
“Oh…I errm…I wanted to get your opinion for our new logo as well as some of the new office designs. You head the brand and communications department and…”
“Wait…me? I thought that it was Tessie’s job.” She said.
“Well, Tessie tended her resignation yesterday morning. She said that she’s relocating to Canada with her husband.” He said, still not taking his eyes off her face.
“You don’t what? You can’t handle it?”
“Of course not! That’s not what I mean sir…I mean that….I can handle it but it comes as a surprise.”
“Well, I am surprised as well.” He said teasingly.
“You love to turn everything into jokes right?”
“Finally, I made you smile.” He said with a wider grin. “Now, I am going to send you emails with the design and the plans and I expect you to give me your honest opinion before the end of the day. I have also spoken to Human Resources to draft a memo stating your new position and also the increase in salary.”
“Thank you so much. I really appreciate this opportunity.” She said, turning to leave.
“Ochuko.” He called out to her.
She turned to regard him.
“Destroy that floor that gave you that bruise. Trample on it and don’t let it trample on you.” He said with a wink and settled down to continue his work.
Ochuko didn’t know what to say, instead she nodded and rushed out of the office, she quickly ran into the toilet and shed tears.
Bisiola watched as Bruce gave his son a high-five and watched him walk into his school. She could tell that he loved his child so much and would give anything to make him happy. Bisiola loved Bruce, at least, she thought she did until she realized that his money played a big role in her deciding if she loved him or not.
Bruce was a good father and a doting one too, he was a good lover and a great partner and she loved him for that. She knew that he had children, some of whom were her age mates and a few who were older than she was but she didn’t care. She also hated to hear any updates on his family so, he never told her anything about them. She only secretly stalked his wife on social media as well as whenever she went out during the weekends.
She watched Bruce walk up to her car and head over to the driver’s seat where she was seated behind the steering and she wound down her window.
“Hello Gorgeous.” He greeted.
“I see that you have decided to push me to the back seat by making it a point of duty to walk your son to the school gate every day.”
“You stay with him all day and I only get to see him whenever I visit or when I walk him to school, just as I did now.” He said.
“How are you?” She asked.
“I am doing very well, you?”
“I am okay…” She said.
“I was hoping you’d say that you miss me.” He said.
“Even if I say that, I know that there’s no way that you’ll be able to tear yourself out of your wife’s grasp for at least three days in a row.” She sighed.
“We both deserve a vacation, just the two of us.” He said.
She wasn’t interested, she would prefer a vacation with Fred, instead.
“Well, I wish we could but I’m busy at the restaurant. It just opened and I need to be there to make sure that everything is working well.” She said.
“I heard that almost all your staff has resigned. What happened?” He asked.
“I don’t know…I guess they love poverty. I can’t beat myself for trying to help people that don’t deserve my help.” She said.
“Don’t you think you’re a bit too strict with them? I have been hearing complaints and…”
She held up her hand to silence him.
“Are you going to tell me how to run my business?” She spat. “You started that business for me and I am grateful but telling me how to run it is disrespectful.”
“I am sorry about that…” He said.
“If they all want to resign, they can besides, the streets are brimming with people in need of a job.” She hissed.
“Have you put out a job vacancy ad? I could tell my secretary to help you put up one.” He said.
“I am sorry that I upset you…I didn’t mean to.” He said.
“Then, don’t.” She spat as she turned her keys in the ignition, started the car and drove away.
Chioma lay in bed, her body hurt and her head couldn’t stop pounding. She had made up an excuse and had avoided the neighbours last night but her husband had been all smiles as he’d gone out to greet them. How was she going to get out of this? When will the nightmare end?
Last night, she had dreamt that she was with her baby in a secluded place then all of a sudden, she had found herself in the market, still with her baby in her arms. When she pulled open the shawl to stare at the baby, she saw a doll instead and she had screamed and woken up.
She heard a small knock at the door and the door opened to reveal her daughters, they were dressed and ready for school.
“Good morning mum…” They greeted.
“Are you ready for school?” She asked, seating up on the bed.
“Yes…” Her first daughter said as she rushed to the crib to look at the baby who was sleeping soundly. “We came to say goodbye to baby…and to tell him that we will see him soon.”
“Mummy, what is the baby’s name?” Her last daughter asked.
“His name is Emmanuel but we haven’t made it official yet. His full name will be Emmanuel Nnamdi Junior Okike.” She said.
“Why does he have daddy’s name?” Her second daughter asked, sounding offended.
“What do you mean by why does he have daddy’s name? Isn’t he daddy’s son?” Her first daughter said.
Her second daughter didn’t reply.
“Mummy, our new neighbours have two sons and their names are Micah and Joseph.” Her first daughter said. “Their daddy said that he will enrol them in our school.”
Chioma’s heart skipped another beat.
“Their baby was born on the same day as ours. She was born on the eighteenth of this month.” Her first daughter added.
“Enough of the information, go to school…” Chioma said to them.
“Bye baby…” Her first daughter said, waving at the baby in the crib. Her third daughter did the same while her second daughter marched to the door as though something was hot on her heels.
“You didn’t say bye to our brother.” Her third daughter said to Chioma’s second daughter.
“Leave me alone.” Her second daughter said as she walked out of the room.
Chioma watched her children leave, she was worried. If her second daughter keeps up with this attitude, her husband and his family might begin to suspect. Her mother-in-law was to arrive tomorrow and she didn’t want anyone to plant any seed of doubt in her mind. She needed to figure out what to do to her daughter to silence her once and for all. She also needed to stay far away from her new neighbour.
She was in a dilemma.
Bisiola stared at the resumes on her desk and gruffly called out to the next applicant.
“I hope they know how to work.” She spat. “Lazy bones!”
There was a knock at the door and the applicant walked in. Bisiola gestured to the chair before her without bothering to look up at the applicant. She took the resume and looked at it, the name written in bold letters at the top of the resume caught her eye.
“Oluwatosin Omonubi.” She looked up and froze.
The applicant looked at her and suddenly seemed to recognize her. Bisiola didn’t speak, she just stared.
“Sister Bisiola!” The girl exclaimed.
The office suddenly became so hot and Bisiola wanted to leave as soon as possible.
“Am I seeing correctly? We all thought that you’re dead.” The girl said with tears in her eyes. “Mummy cried…oh…mummy mourned you…but here you are…hale and hearty. Why didn’t you send word to us that you are fine?”
“Can you comport yourself for the interview? It states here that you have had experience in hotel management and hospitality…” Bisiola started as though she didn’t know who she was.
Her sister stared at her with mouth agape, she was still in shock.
To be continued…