SIX – 2

SIX – 2

When my desk phone rang around 10 am that morning, I’d sighed with relief. The report on the Sport Conference from the week before, where I’d represented my radio station, was killing me. While waiting for my chance to have my own radio show, I’d been assigned desk work on Sports – something I didn’t really love. Make it entertainment or politics, and then we’re talking! Anyway,  I’d gotten to the office very early that day and I was ready to call it a day about an hour after I’d sat down to start the day’s work.

The code on the phone’s screen told me it was from the top floor. And that shook me to the core. I barely received calls from colleagues, except a few acquaintances. Most of my colleagues weren’t very fraternal with me, which was fine. It had taken me a while to train them not to make conversation with me regarding anything but work that needed to pass through my desk. I don’t talk about my personal life in the office, ever. Not because I’m a snob; more than anything, it’s because nobody needs to know that I don’t really have much of a life to speak of, apart from work.

“Hello. This is Peka Bernard,” I answered on the sixth ring after debating whether or not to take the call.

“Hi, Mr. Bernard, this is David, Mr. Etomi’s assistant.”

David and I didn’t get along. Not that we’d had words before; I simply stayed on my lane before I got into trouble with anyone. Very cocky and egotistical, that David.

He paused, as if waiting for me to acknowledge him, but words failed me.

He moved on. “Mr. Etomi has asked to let you know you’re needed in the conference room in ten minutes.”

My heart slammed against my chest. Me? But why?

“I, um –”

“It won’t take long. The sixth floor. See you soon.” He hung up before I could compose myself to respond.

I was left holding the receiver, wondering what I had done, when Goddey, the other occupant in my office touched my shoulder. I jumped. I didn’t even know he was back in the room.

“Bobo, you dey fine so?” he said, lifting his brows at me. “You see ghost abi na wetin dey make your body shake like say light shock you?”

Goddey’s spoken English was actually impeccable. He only goofed around with pidgin when he was being silly. And every time I tried to speak pidgin, he made fun of me.

“Oh boy, Mr. Etomi’s assistant just called me.”

“The CEO? Onto wetin na?”

I shrugged. “He didn’t say…just that I needed to be in the conference room in,” – I looked at the table clock on my desk – “eight minutes.”

“Bobo, dey go quick-quick. You no go wan make am vex say you show late.”

I pushed the elevator button for the sixth floor. I normally would have taken the stairs, but I was running late for the meeting. The elevator door closed. I took in a deep breath and let it out. I was very nervous. I detested meetings. This one should be no different from the others, I thought, seeking consolation in the thought. I fidgeted with the cuff links attached to my shirt.

The doors opened and I rushed down the hall to try and make it before the boss got there. No one wanted to show up after the CEO.

“Shit,” I muttered as I hurried past HR and spotted Mr. Etomi’s head over the top of Derin’s cubicle. I dodged down his row to try and cut him off and get to the conference room before he did.

Somehow, I caught Derin’s eye and he turned to Mr. Etomi to buy me some time with a little distraction.

I immediately ducked into the conference room but not before I heard Derin say something about the ongoing Premier League to our boss.

When did he start watching football?

Around me, some of my colleagues were chatting away amiably. The room was actually packed. While some stood in threes and fours, I quickly found an empty seat close to a window and sat. A few minutes later, Mr. Etomi walked in.

“Good morning, Mr. Etomi,” a great number of the room greeted, nearly in unison.

Ugh! Bunch of brown-nosers! I thought unkindly.

The CEO nodded, shuffled over to the head of the table and sat down.

Lola, Head of Operations started the PowerPoint presentation. We were interrupted when someone else walked into the conference room. I could hear a few murmurings from my colleagues but I couldn’t see the face of the newcomer because of where I was seated.

Probably another staff, I thought to myself.

I kept wondering why I was needed at the meeting so much so that I’d gotten a call from the CEO’s office. Before I knew it, my mind wandered away. Eventually, I realised the boss was covering information not lifted directly from the status memo that had been shared.

“If you have been following the missives from the management committee, you’d know we are about to have an ambassador for our station.”

Okay? That doesn’t answer why I am here.

“So starting in two weeks,” Mr. Etomi was still talking, “Kareem Wihu will be working with one of our OAPs.”

Wait, Kareem Wihu?! The Chardonnay Football Club Player – that Kareem Wihu?! Admittedly, I was neither a fan of his nor of the international club. I couldn’t even say I knew what he really looked like. Forget that I’m in the sports department of my station; I’d only seen passing clips and fleeting mentions of him on social media. But I knew of his name from Fade and co because they didn’t seem to ever be able to stop talking about how amazing he was on the football field and how good looking he was too.

“The goal here is to soften and pull in listeners who love our ambassador and his football club. Kareem, raise your hand so everyone can see who you are.”

A gasp froze halfway across my throat, working me into a coughing fit that I hurriedly stifled. The man next to me gave me an ugly look, but I paid him no attention. I was staring at the man who’d just raised his hand. Standing in the far left corner of the room and behind some staff members was the stranger from the smoothie shop!

You mean I had bathed a footballer with smoothie and I hadn’t known it? I felt somewhat like a billion dollar bucks all of a sudden.

Kareem waved before putting on a smile. His broad smile struck me like an elbow to the ribs. It had been a long time since I was turned on by anyone not starring in high-quality internet porn. He was sweeping an encompassing gaze over the room and faces of the staff. The moment his gaze landed on me, the smile faded and I looked away immediately.

***

TWO DAYS EARLIER…

“Are you buying anything else, sir?” the ticketing officer behind the counter at the cinema asked me as she inserted my ATM card into the POS device.

“Uhm…popcorn and a bottle of Pepsi,” I answered.

“Small, medium or large bucket?”

“Large, please.”

She handed my ATM card back to me after the transaction was completed. While waiting for her to hand over my goodies, I sensed someone standing beside me by the counter. A moviegoer, I suspected. I moved to my left a little bit so he could be attended to.

“Good evening, sir. How may I help you?” Another ticket attendant came to stand opposite us.

“I would like to see a movie.”

“Okay. Which one?” she asked with a smile.

From the corner of my eyes, I saw the man point to a movie on the schedule pamphlet in his hand as he handed her a thousand Naira note.

“Anything else, sir?”

The lady who’d attended to me returned with my munchies. I put my wallet in my back pocket and proceeded to collect the items from her.

“No, nothing at all,” the man next to me answered his attendant.

“Alright then,” she said as she handed his ticket to him. I could hear the smile in her voice. “Enjoy your movie.”

“Hopefully.” The tone with which the word was said, the pause that followed afterward, and the eyes I felt on me caused me to look up at the man beside me.

“Oh, fuck me!” I muttered under my breath.

“This Lagos is just too small!” he spat, while he shook his head at the same time. He had black sunshades and a cap on – an ensemble I didn’t know at the time was a disguise. This was the stranger from the smoothie shop.

“It certainly is,” I replied as I lifted my chin and turned around. My jaw line became even tauter as I left him at the counter to go see my movie.

***

PRESENT DAY…

“Tomorrow, we’ll be announcing him as our ambassador. The marketing team has put together helpful e-mail suggestions to make sure we get the right person to work with him,” Mr. Etomi was saying.

I risked a sneaking glance at him and was startled to catch his eye directly on me. Our looks held. And he smirked.

Oh my God!

As soon as the meeting was over, I darted out of the room and headed straight to my office. I’d no sooner made it back to my refuge when the desk phone rang. It was the top floor again.

“Hello, Mr. Bernard,” David said when I answered the phone.

“I, uhm –”

“Mr. Etomi would like to see you in his office right away.”

I was pretty sure that had I looked into the mirror at that exact time, I’d see myself looking aghast, confused and flabbergasted. First it was a meeting the relevance of my attendance which I still didn’t understand. Now I was being called to the boss’ office? For what na?!

“He’s waiting for you.” The assistant hung up.

I wondered if the CEO’s assistant was sexually deprived, what with the way he delivered phone messages.

I took the stairs this time. What was normally a minute trip felt really long.

I soon got to the top floor and found myself moving in the direction of the executive office. I straightened my tie, which suddenly felt like it was choking me. And why couldn’t I have worn my best John Foster today?

I glanced at the frosted glass doors to my boss’ office.

I can do this. Just relax. Be cool. He’s a regular guy. I sighed.

Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t scared of my boss, never been. I was just scared of the fact that maybe, just maybe, Kareem Wihu had narrated the smoothie incident to him, who in turn had summoned me just to fire me.

Will Kareem be there? Humiliation 2.0!

I steeled my nerves as best I could and pushed through the doors to see Etomi’s assistant sitting at a large desk. He rang up the intercom before I got to him.

“Yes?” Mr. Etomi’s voice resonated in my gut as he answered.

“Peka Bernard is here to see you.”

“Oh great! Send him in.”

Oh great?

My stomach flipped. He sounded excited to see me. I supposed if I had to pick which mood to get fired in, it’d be one of excitement. Perhaps it would come with an attractive severance package.

David opened the door, and I walked in before I had the time to talk myself out of it. The door closed behind me.

The office was bigger than I had imagined, but the furniture still managed to make it feel cozy. One wall was filled with awards and plaques. The decor was hip and modern. I anxiously attempted to memorize every knickknackery, every nuance of colour and every funky art piece in the room.

As I swept my way grandly and quickly over the huge office, someone cleared his throat and I started, catching Kareem smiling at me from the chaise to my left.

“Good morning, sir,” I blurted out.

“Good morning, Peka,” Mr. Etomi said, before gesturing at Kareem. “I’m sure you know Kareem Wihu…”

It was on the tip of my tongue to say “Not very much”, but I had to focus on the fact that I was likely getting fired.

“Yes, I know of him very much,” I said with a plastic smile aimed at the good looking man lounging on my left side.

It was then that my boss dropped the bombshell.

“That’s good – because I would like you to work with Kareem for the new radio sports show.”

I returned my focus to my boss, my brow furrowing with incomprehension. “I don’t follow, sir.”

“Alright.” He chuckled. “I’ve seen your monthly review from the Programmes Director. Good work. Your boss thinks so and I do too. Which is why I’m giving you this new position.”

Wait first! My own radio show? Woohoo!

My excitement immediately dampened when I realised my radio show would be on Sports. To make matters worse, I would have to work with Mr. Footballer.

“Oh. I, uh –”

“Look, I know you were expecting something on politics or entertainment. But this, I’m sure, will be a big break and another opportunity like this might not present itself in a long time. You already work in sports. This shouldn’t be hard at all.”

“Very true, sir, but –”

“Just think about it, will you? That’s all I’m asking.”

No matter how much my stomach twisted itself in knots, I was super excited. I just wasn’t expecting such vote of confidence. When had I proven myself worthy of such approval? The man was either nuts or the best boss a person could have.

But it’d be on sports. Was I now supposed to build a career out of sports journalism? And then working with some egomaniac while at it?

“Alright, sir,” I finally conceded.

“Good. I need your answer in the next 96 hours, so we can set things in motion. That’ll be all.”

I thanked him and turned to leave the room, feeling the burn of Kareem’s gaze on my back as I exited the office.

***

“Hey. Peka, is it?” Kareem Wihu called from behind me.

I had just closed the stairwell door when he opened it and walked in after me.

Why is he here?

I propped myself up against the railing. “Hey,” I said, keeping my expression as unreadable as I could manage.

“Congratulations,” he said.

“And you’re congratulating me because?” I raised an eyebrow, a quirk I’d come to love.

“The new job. We’ll be working together.”

I see. And the apology you owe me nko? Of course I didn’t say that out loud. Instead, I started down the stairs, my head down.

“You know you owe me an apology, right?”

I stopped in my tracks and looked back at him with great incredulity etched on my face. “I do?”

He looked at me like I was a child. “Two apologies actually.”

“You must be kidding, right?”

“Do I look amused?”

No, you don’t. You look very ravishing – Boris Kodjoe ravishing.

I shushed the traitorous thought and snapped, “You should – unless you’re one of those who can pull off a good sense of humour behind a straight face. Would that be all?” Without even waiting for an answer, I had turned and continued my journey down the stairs.

“You should show some respect. Don’t you like your job?”

I turned back to look at him again before letting out a bark of laughter. “You must think you are the nation’s national anthem, yeah? Look, man I have no time for this.”

“This is no time to get precious, Peka,” Kareem said.

“Oh no, Kareem, I dare not be precious. That’s entirely your forte,” I retorted.

“Well, I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t.”

I shook my head, turned and left him on the stairs.

Written by Vhar

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9 Comments

  1. Thor
    May 04, 08:11 Reply

    I’m having this stupid déjà vu from the story line. Lol.
    My fingers are crossed sha. Trying to imagine what Vhar has in store for PeKareem.
    Waiting for episode 3 😌

    • Pink Panther
      May 04, 08:36 Reply

      PeKareem. 😂😂😂😂😂😂 Someone is already invested in this relationship and has Brangelinaed it. Chai. Big mistake, buddy.

  2. iAmNotAPerv
    May 04, 09:26 Reply

    What kind of abrupt end is this? Where’s the rest of the episode?

  3. Ria
    May 04, 16:12 Reply

    Enemies to lovers stories are just my kryptonite. And I can already imagine all the drama that will happen if it turns out that the reason why Peka got his own gig is because Kareem insisted on working with him, the asshole’s probably doing it to get back at him. Make his life a living hell. Poor Peka. Me, I am sha here for all the drama. Bring it.

    Also, great writing as always Vhar. Thank you.

  4. Lorde
    May 06, 11:29 Reply

    Pow Chika wow wow…. uh huh huh…

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