“Step Back, Dad! ” (13)
If you missed the last episode, please click here. Enjoy your read.
I looked forward to the evening with great anticipation. Today, I would finally get the answers to the clues hanging around my life. I checked my phone for the third time just to be sure I had read properly. Mrs Folarin’s message was clear enough. There was a touch of desperation in it too, like she had some scores to settle with me. I wondered what she wanted to tell me. Well, I had a lot to ask her and she had better come clean. If she was really the bad person Tayo claimed she was, then it was time she was put in her place.
Occasionally, I would jump at any sound from my phone. A part of me missed Segun terribly and ached to hear from him… a call, text or even a flash would do. Just to relish the thought that he still remembered me. None came and that was a little depressing. I resisted the urge to call him. Oh! It was not easy. I did not know how I managed to scale through, but somehow I survived and was glad I did.
At 2pm, Steve walked out of his office and into mine. As his P.A, my office was just outside his. He flashed a brilliant smile. “Settling into your new role?”
I looked up from my laptop and managed a smile. “Well, it’s very much the same as my old. It is just a change of location.”
“And more work, I presume?”
“Well, perhaps.” I shrugged my shoulders. “I am sure I can cope.”
“Sure you can. That was why I handpicked you. You have everything I need.” When he said that, the air became somewhat uncomfortable. He checked his wrist watch. “I’m going for lunch. Care to join?”
Actually, I was a little free, but was not ready to be anywhere near him. Not after what I saw this morning. I would be a fool to fall into his trap again.
I looked for an excuse. “Actually, I have some paper work I need to clear before going on break.” I picked up some documents on my table and flipped through them. “Maybe another time.” Of course, ‘another time’ will never come.
“I understand your decision, but I want you to know that what you saw this morning was not of my doing.”
Here we go again.
He continued. “Like I said, the lady was all over me and I was about chasing her out of my office when you arrived.”
Chasing indeed. “Sir!” I buttressed the word. “You really do not need to do any explanation. I am only here to do my job.”
He glanced round to be sure no one was within earshot and whispered softly. “Don’t you understand? I brought you here so you could be near me. This is not about the job. It is about you and me. I want us to be together.”
I stood up slowly and at the back of my mind landed him a hot slap. How dared he! So, this was just another of his wiles. “Mr. Steve, as much as I do not have much choice in my transfers in the company, I have the right to how I perform my job and I do not mix business with pleasure. More importantly, I am a Christian and not ready to sin against my God.” I am also not ready to marry a womanizer, who just cost me my relationship. How could he pretend like yesterday never happened?
“Ha!, I like it when a lady proves stubborn. Makes the chase more interesting for me. But then you are not just any lady. I intend to make you mine. Yes, I said it. And no matter what you do, I will not stop until I achieve my goal.”
Is he cra…normal? I put some distance between us as I was not sure if my next statement would not earn me a blow. “That is the silliest statement I have heard in a long while. First, you put my relationship in danger and now you are trying to play a petty game? This is so beneath you.”
He tried to hide his hurt, but it did not escape me. He glanced around again to be sure no one was around. “You either do what I say or…”
“Or what?” I interrupted. “Now, you are threatening me?”
It was time to change the rules. I would not be a pawn any longer. Let him do whatever he wished. I cared less. I arranged my table and picked my purse.
“Where are you going?” He asked as I walked past him. “We are not done talking.”
“I am going for MY BREAK and it is strictly for one alone.”
“COME BACK HERE!”
This was the final straw. I could not stand his presence a second longer. In fact, it irked me. Let him carry out his threat, the worst of which would be to terminate my appointment, right? He could do nothing more. I shut the door hard after me and then I bumped into a colleague. Sade, a consultant with the Company and well known for her tale-bearing history, looked like she just swallowed an elephant. Well, there was no going back now.
“Hello, Sade.” I managed a smile and walked past her. There was no need for further conversation. I could only thank God I did not play along. I could imagine what they would say if I had… And she called herself a ‘bornagain’ o!
As I walked out the gate, I got another message, this time, from my phone evangelist. It read… “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak…….” Who was this person who knew how to send the right message at the right time? Like he or she knew exactly what was happening at the right moment? I dialed the number and nobody picked. This was the second time nobody would pick. I could only wonder.
An hour later, I stepped into my office and found a note. It read. “Will be out for the rest of the day. Please finish up your tasks before close of work today. Steve.”
That was not what I expected. I had anticipated a sack letter. Some relief washed over me. As much as I had tried to be confrontational, I had feared a termination. To start scouting for another job was not on top of my agenda. There would be another encounter with Steve, no doubt, but there was no changing of mind for me. Not ever.
5pm met at the gate and as I traced my way to Mrs Folarin’s store in Surulere, a new apprehension filled me. Thousands of butterflies danced in my stomach and I must confess I nearly called to cancel the visit. Her store was a big retail business of groceries and I was amazed at the influx of customers. She seemed to be doing quite well. When she saw me, she beamed and I almost forgot she was on my enemy’s list. She beckoned at me and took me into an inner office. The office was small but beautiful. On the wall hung a picture of her late husband and a small frame on her table housed a picture of a cute baby.
“That is my newest nephew” She spoke with pride. “He was born last week. Isn’t he beautiful?”
“Very beautiful.” I picked up the frame. “Such a cutie.”
I looked up and saw a sad expression on her face… the look of a woman who wished she had hers. Then she seemed to recover quickly. “Do you care for some juice?”
She walked towards the fridge at the corner. “Thank you for coming at such a short notice.”
“I would have it no other way. You are like a mother to me.”
She paused a little before handing over a bottle to me. Then she sat down and tried to clear her table. I observed her shaky hands and that how she tried hard to gain her composure.
“There is something I would like to share with you.”
My heart somersaulted. Okay. Here was it. What I had been dreading to hear.
She continued without looking at me. “But first, I would like to apologise.”
“Apologise for what?” I felt the need to use the restroom.
“After I am done talking, you will understand better. Please forgive me and don’t hold anything against me.”
Perhaps, Tayo was right. There were many things I should hold against this woman I had considered a replacement for my mother. I could only mutter a word. “Okay.”
Then she began… “I remember the day your dear mother, my wonderful friend, died. You were at school and your father had travelled on a mission. The attack had started and everything happened in a jiffy. I was at her bedside in her last minutes on earth. She held my hands tight and with her last ounce of strength, she told me to take care of her children, you especially. She loved you very much. I gave her my word that I would be a mother to you.”
I held her hands. “And you have been that to me and more all these years. I really appreciate that.”
“Well, I have been until lately.” She swallowed hard. “Early this year, someone approached me and gave me the toughest assignment of my life. I was to do something I ordinarily would not have done as a mother.”
Our eyes met and she quickly averted hers. “I am sorry about what I did. I could not take it anymore and have decided to let you know what has been happening.”
My patience was wearing thin. As much as I was desperate to know, I was also very scared I was about to learn something that would change the course of my life forever.
“First, how is your fiancé?” Her face showed some concern.
Fiance? What concerned Segun with this? I answered non-commitantly. “Segun is fine.”
“So you are still together?”
Now this was getting too hot for me. I straightened on my seat and asked. “Ma, what did this person tell you to do?”
“I am glad you are still together. I was to break you up.”
There was a knock on the door and without waiting for a response, the caller walked in. “I’m sorry I’m a little late.”
I could recognize that voice anywhere in the world and I froze on my seat. He, too, was very surprised to see me.
“What are you doing here?” We spoke together.
Mrs Folarin stood to welcome her visitor. “Segun, welcome. Please have a seat.” Then she looked at me. “I invited him too. I needed you both to be here as I owe both of you some explanations.”
I could hear my heart pound heavily and avoided Segun’s gaze. I shifted my seat further away from him. Whichever way this was going to end, I was sure, would not leave a palatable taste in my mouth. I was in the midst of two betrayers and there was no room for escape. I took in three deep breaths, grabbed my bottle of water, finished the content in four gulps and awaited the next line of the confession.