Tari didn’t believe it! But here was his boss’ secretary offering him “Tea or Coffee” that meant it was noon. He took a look at his watch before replying her. “Coffee. Thanks, Meg.” “As always. I actually should quit asking you.” she said in her sonorous voice. He managed a smile. Meg was a nice girl, she’d been around from the early days of the company. A single mother of a cute little girl. He’d hung out with her a couple of times – a lunch here, a dinner there, a function some other place. ‘Why had he not asked her out?’ he thought to himself watching her as she walked away. “I really should write these things down.” he murmured.
He knew there was a perfectly good reason why he had not asked her out but for the life of him, he could not recall what it was. ‘Chicken!’ his head taunted him.He’d been seated here since 9am, declined Meg’s first offer of a beverage, thinking it would be a short wait. But here he still was waiting on his boss. Same man whose email Tari had found on his phone when his alarm went off at 6am. The timestamp on it had been 4:03am. It was a simple “See me at 9am.”. Tari shook his head as Meg arrived with the coffee pot on a tray. “What? You don’t want it anymore?” she asked giving him a crazy look. “No, no. Not that. Just thought this meet of our’s was urgent.” Tari replied quickly, taking the tray from her. “Hmm.” Meg replied looking at her boss’ door. “Who else is in there?” he asked. “P.A.” she replied pouring him a cup. “You sure he knows I’m here?” he asked still standing. “Please, sit down, Mr. Whiteriver.” she said giving him another look.
June was starving. She and the other OAPs had just gotten off air. The morning show was fun as usual, but fun needed fuel. She walked briskly down the stairs and headed to the ATMs on the ground floor of the plaza occupied by a bank. She chose the shorter of the two queues and prayed some clueless person was not ahead of her. The kind of annoying folks that checked balances before and after, counted their cash and waited for the debit alerts before leaving the ATM. She opened her purse to get her card when it caught her eye. It was Tari’s business card. “Hmmm. Mr. Tari Whiteriver…. Where’s that guy, though?” she asked herself. Since his call, early saturday morning, she’d heard nothing of him. He didn’t strike her as a guy who would not press an advantage, so why was he AWOL?In her experience, that kind of behaviour was atypical. She looked at her image in the pane beside her. Her looks had never failed to keep the male folk coming. Some times it was fun, other times it was a ‘pain in the fanny’ like her cousin would say. But Tari was not the kind of man she didn’t want around her, in fact it was the complete opposite – he was the desirable type. He had the right specs. There was definitely no ring on his finger, not like that had stopped some others, but she’d checked. Maybe a fiancée somewhere, then? ‘Take the fight to him’, she thought, pulled out her phone and dialled him.Tari pulled out his phone. “Ouch!” he said. Meg saw ‘June Calling’, “Lemme guess; you forgot to call her back.” she chided. “Something like that.” he said knowing fully well he should have called June over the weekend. “Hello, June!” he said, “Hi, stranger!” came her reply. He laughed, conscious of Meg’s eyes on him. “Eerrrrm…. So, how are you?” he said, “Thought you’d never ask. I’m fine. Just finished the morning show. Did you listen in?” she said “Morning show? Oh, that! Ahhhh…. I’m sorry, I didn’t. Work stuff.” he said. The truth was he had forgotten about it. She had mentioned it but…. “Hey! Why don’t you let me call you back later?” he said as his boss’ door swung open and the P.A. all but ran to the elevator. “Sure. Why not?” she replied. “Thanks.” he said and hung up.June smiled as she slipped her phone into the back pocket of her jean. She had sensed the guilt in his voice. Sounded like he planned to call but somehow didn’t. And the morning show? She’d let it go this time. Of course he was yet to understand how important it was to her. In summary, she was sure he’d ‘play ball’. ‘Game On!’ she thought as she stepped up to the machine.
Tari walked out of his boss’ office. He was revved up. The news was excellent. The strategy was solid. This was looking like the company’s biggest win. Heck! It dwarfed all of the revenues from any given year. And he was the key player. He was practically floating to the elevator. His boss watched him leave. In the years he’d known Tari, he’d come to learn the boy was outstanding, that was why he’d put up with Tari’s quirks thus far. Also, He knew he was not half as smart as Tari at that age. And lastly, if the boy was not so damn honest and by-the-book? “He’d be much more wealthier than I am.” he said. He read the email from his brother again. At the end of this, he would be able to get that Falcon jet he’d always wanted. The big leagues were here. “Mozambique!” he said with a smile.
Becky put the last note aside. She was done marking the assignments of her beloved SSS 3 class. She was impressed; they were getting better. The plan was to have at least 9 of them score As in their WAEC exams and have them all speaking and writing French fluently before the class trip to a French-speaking country in a few months. She was confident this was going to be achieved. Very confident. It was hard getting parents to fund trips for foreign language courses these days, she and the kids had to prove they were worth the investment. She didn’t start out as such a good teacher, in fact she initially didn’t like it. She only did it to keep a job. But she’d quickly learned the Universe rewarded diligence. She had gotten more opportunities for private coaching than she could count.Gifts never failed to pour in from parents and she was grateful. She needed every Naira she could earn. With 3 younger ones, a late dad and a mother whose health was failing, she had a lot to shoulder. But aside the financial imperative of her situation, she had found a purpose in transferring knowledge, in the process of bettering herself so as to have a lot more to give. This was especially needed with the adults she coached. For them, it was not just about passing some tests, it was about mastery. The challenge never failed to bring a warm glow to her life. A glow that filled the gapping hole that used to be her soul. Like she had read somewhere “…you are not crushed because of the pressure from outside; You are crushed because of the emptiness within.”She had to make sure her life was full of essence at all times. After the last break up with Alfred, she had looked inward and realised she had a problem – her soul was empty. She was looking to him for happiness, affirmation and confirmation. For companionship, for a reason to live. No more! She had never felt more alive and fun than in the last couple of months. Then June had come along with her “weird wisdom”, like she always called it, and it had gotten even better. There was no way she was going back to an abusive, obsessive boyfriend with a compulsion to ride on the fast lane whether he could pay the fare or not. Why had he hit her the last time? She had asked “What happened to all the money from the sales you made last month?”. He hit her because, he said, she had “spoken rudely”.“Rudely…” Becky mumbled as she packed up her stuff to leave. She was pregnant, he was broke. How was it out of place or rude to ask how come he was broke, knowing fully well he had just imported and sold 2 SUVs to some clients less than 3 weeks ago? Alfred was like that. He was good at what he did – importing used cars for sale. His profit margins were solid, she’d seen enough instances to know, but his inability to hold on to the cash was almost diabolical in operation. “Who buys a car for a client, then goes out all night to celebrate with the client AND spends his own profit as well at the ‘washing’?” she said as she walked in the evening sunshine. It made no sense. Whatever was left was spent on maintaining the lifestyle he now led – that of a Lagos Big Boy.Back then, Alfred always argued it was his sales strategy. He hung out with the guys who could afford the kind of cars that brought good profits. He had to roll with them, be in their circles so as to sustain the demand for his services. He argued he needed to give them “expert advice and after sales service.” She had gotten tired of arguing his methods, which were clearly madness. She was back in JSS 1 holiday coaching again – everyone but her thought Alfred was an extremely amazing dude, and they made a sweet couple. She was too ashamed to speak of the beatings and the abortions. It was not until June came along that she finally opened up to anyone about the true state of her relationship with Alfred. And now he was back, banging at the gates to her soul. Everyday since Friday.She still had not taken any of his calls and he had also not sent an SMS. She knew that soon his friends and maybe his sisters will join in. They’ll begin to call and plead that she at least let a man tender his apologies. She knew the modus operandi well. It was the 8th time, after all. She’d secretly feared this day would come, and had avoided other guys; she didn’t want to hurt anyone anymore, because, in the end, she always left them for Alfred again. This made her so ashamed, she’d been unable to confess it, even to June. Why was she even entertaining such a silly fear? “Shebi its over with Alfred?” she asked herself as she shut her door behind her. “Becky?” she heard June call from the bathroom. “Hi, honey, I’m home!” she said chuckling. “Its good to be home.” she added.8:43pm, Mon.“Hmmm. Nice boobs.” Dan said which earned him a slap on the head from Tari. Both guys were looking at Tari’s computer screen. Dan had made just 1 phone call and had promptly found out June’s last name. A quick search on google and they were now viewing her pictures on Instagram. “She’s alright.” Tari said. Its been ages since the last time he had been excited over a girl. He’d had his fair share of women issues since he got back into the country. He was an “Oil Boy”, that made him as sticky as crude oil itself where women were concerned. It had quickly worn him out. Dan, on the other hand, was “the Rancher”. The nature of his work put him in plenty of contact with the ladies. He was a photographer. “I think I’ve heard her on the show.” Dan said, pulling up June’s Twitter profile.“Oga, return her call. Abi what again?” Dan pressed, scrolling through June’s Twitter timeline. Tari picked his phone off his desk and dialled June’s line, she picked up on the 2nd ring. “Hi, Mr. Whiteriver.” she said. 9 minutes later, he’d promised to listen to the morning show tomorrow and come get her for drinks after work. “Not so hard, you see?” Dan teased. He was now going through June’s Facebook profile. “Hmmm.” Tari responded. “All in all, she no bad at all.” Dan said leaning back satisfied with his search. “Yeah.” Tari replied. “So why are you not gingered?” Dan queried “I’m too old for that shit, man!” Tari said getting up. “Let’s go home, Dan.” He added heading for the door. “Don’t blow this one off, bro. You getting too old for that shit.” Dan said following him out.9:12pm, Mon.The girls were in no mood to cook. Such moods were opportunities to go out and have some fun. They had gotten in a cab and gone to this place June had been raving about all week. They’d done some paid announcements on the show, so June insisted they tried the place out. “Here we are!” June said as they found seats by a window. It seemed the radio announcement had had the desired impact: The place was brimming. Their orders had just arrived when a car pulled into the driveway. 3 guys and a girl got out and headed for the shawarma hut. June was going to comment on the girl’s hairdo when she heard Becky’s glass topple over, its content racing unto her laps. “Becky!” June exclaimed. By the time she was up, Becky had dashed into the ladies. “What da?!” June swore.