‘Step Back, Dad!’ (21)
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He drove into the driveway and my heart leaped with joy like a child offered a candy. I had missed him so much that every hour spent away from him seemed like eternity and just like he did every day, he came out of the car with some flowers in his hands. Blue daises… he knew just what I loved. I chuckled loudly. It would be another romantic evening, just like we have always had since the day we got married…
“Are you with me, Chinwe?”
I snapped out of my fantasy and looked up with confused eyes. “Yes…Yes I am.” I managed to say.
“I doubt it.” Steve sat straight in his seat. “You have the look of someone who just won a visa lottery.”
“I really am with you.” I straightened and looked closely at the papers in front of me. “You want me to edit the proposal and I will.”
“Not edit. I want you to rewrite everything.” He picked the papers and waved them in the air. “This is not good enough to win even the cheapest contract in this world. To think you have been working in the Company for some years now and you are yet to learn anything…”
I bit my tongue from retorting. Since word had gone round that Steve was frolicking around with female staff (and he knew), he had been taking it out on me as I had been the only one to have caught him in compromising positions. Now, my once ‘excellent’ work was full of ‘comas and errors’. He was already getting on my nerves and each day, I prayed for greater grace to tolerate his rudeness.
“A promotion interview is coming soon.” He threatened. “And I will not recommend you.”
“Why? I deserve it just like everyone in my level.” I nearly shouted.
“You think so? Wait till my father returns and the date is fixed. Then you will understand how low your level is. Now, get back to work and bring me a PROPOSAL.”
I hesitated a bit and took my time to pack the papers. I knew that irked him, but that was my aim. Action, they say, speaks louder than words. When I got back to my seat, I found I had three missed calls from an unknown number. As much as I wanted it to be from Bro Tunde, I knew the probability was zero. After our Sunday meeting two days ago, I had not heard from him. He would keep to his promise and let me be. Now why did that leave a sour taste in my mouth? After all, I got what I asked for, didn’t’ i?
Steve banged his table hard and I jumped up in fright. What was it again? I had barely stood up to check when he flung his door open and walked out angrily. The look in his eyes made me stop the words at the tip of my tongue.
His voice was edgy. “I am leaving now. If ANYONE asks of me, just tell them I am not available.” Then he left without a backward glance.
I wondered why he looked so fearful and hasty to leave the office. Whatever the problem was, I hoped it did not involve me in any way. I already had my basket full.
I sat to resume work but I could not concentrate. My mind drifted again. Now, where did I stop? The flowers…
Okay. So, when he came to the porch, I was already at the door waiting for him. He handed me the flowers and their scent was perfect. We hugged each other tightly and was I glad to have him home! I had prepared his favourite food – peppersoup and yam– and even lit the candles. He looked into my eyes and my world suddenly exploded with love…
Bimbo barged into my office, looking disorganized. “Have you heard? The M.D. is almost here and everyone is trying to put things in proper shape. Heard he is just two minutes away. So hurry, make sure your office is set!”
She didn’t wait for a response before shutting the door firmly. I quickly scanned my office and Steve’s and fortunately, almost everything was in order, except the almost-full paper bin. I knew Chief Adekunle hated to see papers around. He was my former direct boss before he travelled and I was transferred to Steve’s office. I quickly emptied the bin and I had barely replaced it in its position when the office door flung open. The Managing Director walked in and his powering presence filled the room.
“Welcome back, sir.” I greeted with a shaky voice.
He did not respond. Instead, his eyes glanced briefly round the room, taking in every detail before finally resting on me. Then he nodded and charged towards his son’s office.
He flung the door wide. “Where is he?” He asked when he saw no one.
“I don’t know. He…”
“You cannot tell me you do not know where Steven is. You are his P.A. and should know his whereabouts if no other person in this Company knows. So I ask again, where is he?”
“I really do not know, sir.” I stated more confidently. “He left the office shortly before you arrived.”
“I really hope you are not covering up for him because if you are, the hammer will fall on you both.” He warned. Then he lowered his voice. “Someone among my escort must have tipped him about my arrival. No matter how much he runs, I will deal with him. No one, not even my flesh and blood will destroy the work I have used my sweat to build over the years. Give me a call immediately you know his whereabouts, okay?”
“Yes, sir. I will.”
I watched the M.D walk out and I heaved a sigh of relief, but my heart was heavy. What did he mean by his son destroying his labour? What had Steve got his hands into? And I hoped that would not implicate me in any way as his Personal Assistant. Another ball of trouble.
My phone rang loudly and my heart missed a beat. It was Bro Tunde, the man I had been fantasizing about throughout the day. I was too excited to pick. Was he calling to inform me of a change of mind or perhaps he wanted to ask me out on a date? Now, wouldn’t that be a fantasy come true? I pressed the green button just when the call was about to end.
“Hello.” It barely came out as a whisper as I tried to control the surge of happiness that had overwhelmed me.
“Hello, Sister Chinwe!” He sounded rough and terrified. “Sister Chinwe! Are you there?”
I was scared. “Yes, Yes, I am here. I can hear you. Is everything okay?”
“It’s your dad. He has a heart attack and has been rushed to the hospital. You should come there now. I have been trying to reach you but you have not been picking.”
“What! Jesus, have mercy! What hospital?” I was completely perturbed. I picked my purse and dashed out of the office. Within few minutes, I was already in a cab on the way to Gbagada, where JOLAD Hospital was. I tried my father’s phone, but no one picked and my fear multiplied. Jesus, please save my father!
I dialed Bro Tunde and he picked.
“Where are you now?”
“Almost on the bridge.”
“Hurry but be calm. Keep praying. God is in control.”
“Is a doctor attending to him?”
“Yes, two are with him in the emergency room?”
“Emergency room?” OMG!
“Just be calm. God is in control.”
Ha! He has to be o! Because if He isn’t, then everything is a total mess.
I tapped the cab driver. “Please can you go faster?”
“Aunty, you know say I no suppose drive fast than this. Abi you want make police arrest me?” He looked at me through the front mirror.
“Just try, please.”
Everything seemed to have taken a whole new turn, completely out of my grasp. Where do I turn to? Where do I start from? How did it get to this? The devil is really at war and Lord, you are all I have. I am turning to You. Let me not be ashamed. Let not the enemy triumph over me.