June grabbed a napkin and hurried after Becky, ignoring strange stares from the staff and other customers. She found her standing by the sink. “Are you alright?” June asked. “Yes,” Becky replied, “I’m sorry.” she added, seeing June’s soiled jeans. “So, you want to tell me why we are here?” June asked, beginning to scrub the front of her jeans with the napkin. “He’s outside!” Becky said. “Alfred is here? Which one?” June asked, now excited. “Blue Tee.” Becky replied. “That’s Mr. Fast Money Fast Cars?” June asked laughing.”That guy is Alfred? Wow!” She managed. Becky didn’t see how June could be laughing at this time. She didn’t like what was happening to her. Her movement from the table to the Ladies had been purely reflexive, she could not explain why she had acted that way.
“So…what do we do?” June asked fighting and winning over the laughter that was threatening to resume. “Can we just go home, abeg?” Becky asked. “Okay. But, me, I’m not leaving my food behind.” June said heading for the door, “Let me ask them to pack it up.” She added. “Help me pack mine too.” Becky said. June could not rein in the laughter anymore. She found a waiter and asked that their food be packed then paid for the meal with her card. She knew going to the road for a taxi was out of it. A quick look at the pizza hut had shown her Alfred had settled in with the people in his company. They were having drinks, clearly waiting on the pizza order to come through. He was sited with his back to her, but he had a clear view of the driveway and the street. She had an idea.
She called Tochi. Tochi was this guy in her NYSC batch who had shown interest in her from the day they had arrived in camp. He’d been on her case, but she’d never paid him any mind. He would make a fine catch for many other girls – he was a doctor, handsome, smart and had a ride, but he just was not man enough for her. However, tonight, he could be of some use. “Hey!” She said when he picked up. “Hello, June. What’s up?” he replied. He sounded like he’d been sleeping. “Is this a bad time, dear?” she asked feigning a retreat. “No. No. Not at all. Kind of dozed off. Had a crappy day. What’s up?” He asked. “Oh! Sorry to interrupt your sleep. Never mind, I’ll manage.” She replied. “Oh, No! Come on, tell me what you needed. I insist.” He pressed. June smiled and told him.
Dan and Tari were playing FIFA ’13 on the PS3 while they waited for the food they had ordered. “Bruv, don’t lose that girl.” Dan suddenly said. Tari hit the Pause button, looked at Dan and said “Seriously, Dan? We are still on that issue?”, “Oga, play game!”, Dan threw back. “You know you are just a goat, yeah? That was how you pushed and pushed me unto that Funke girl. That one that turned out to be a certified alcoholic! You know how she embarrassed me at Ceddi Plaza, yeah?” Tari shot back recalling the last girl he’d met through Dan about five months ago. Now Dan was laughing. “I didn’t know she had a drinking problem naa!” He defended. “Oh? Just like you don’t know ANYTHING about June.” Tari pointed out. “The babe is fiiiiiiinnneeeee!” Dan said collapsing on the rug.
“You are just a mumu! I swear down.” Tari said dropping the controller and getting up. Dan was hugging himself and making kissing sounds. “You know the thing about fiiiiiiinnneeeee girls?” Tari asked, mimicking Dan. “They grow up being told all the time that they are pretty. It gets to their head. People keep making exceptions for them, guys dying to kiss their feet, they get used to always having things their way. Many of them end up really messed up in the head.” He finished. Dan got up, “Yeah, fine no be wife, I know. But you have a shot with her, take it. That’s all I’m saying. Don’t get into the paralysis of analysis. You are over-thinking the issue.” He said. “I already set up a date, didn’t I?” Tari asked. Just then, the door bell rang. “Food!” Dan yelled running to get the door.
“He’s here!” June said as Tochi’s call came in. “Who?” Becky asked agitated. “Tochi. Oya, let’s go.” June replied taking a reluctant Becky by the hand. “Which Tochi?” Becky asked. “Same Tochi naa.” June replied as they made for the door. “Tochi, please, just bring the car to the entrance. We’ll meet you.” June said into her phone. June let go of Becky, got the packed food and left the restaurant. Outside, as discussed, Tochi was parked close to the entrance. “Where is she?” He asked. “I’ll go in and get her. Could you be a darling and put these in the car for me? I’ll be back in a minute.” June said, handing him the packs. “Are you sure you can manage?” He asked, taking the packs. “Sure.” June said. She didn’t want anything that would attract attention to them.
Back in the restaurant, June gave Becky instructions. “Tochi’s car is just outside. Look first then walk briskly to it and get in.” Becky did as she was told. Confirming that Alfred’s back was still to her, she walked to the car and got in the backseat. “Hey! Becky, how are you feeling? What happened?” Tochi asked. June had told him Becky was not feeling well and they will need a ride home. He had agreed to come get them. For him it was a win, because it meant he had the opportunity to see June again. Maybe they’ll get to talk and stuff could work out between them. Nothing would please him more. “I’ll be fine.” Becky said, “I just need to lie down. I guess its stress.” She added, promptly laying on the backseat. In a minute, June was in the car and they were on their way home.
June had been able to make Tochi leave with a promise she would make out time to see him by weekend, because, for now, she had to take care of Becky. He had suggested they took Becky to the clinic; “Its just cramps.” She’d told him. Now she was back inside starring at Becky. “I’m sorry, June.” Becky said. “When last did he call you?” June asked. “Yesterday.” Becky replied. “This has to stop!” June said. “Yes, I know.” Becky replied. “Next time he calls, you are going to pick up and tell him off for good.” June said. “I know what he’ll say.” Becky replied. “What?” June asked taking a seat beside her friend. “He’ll ask that we see and talk.” Becky replied. “Then you’ll see and talk and tell him to go to hell!” June spat. “I never knew he was this much of an irritant. Hian!” she added.
Tari had a splitting headache. This was how life was with Dan. His childhood friend and on&off housemate would drag him around to every function, every bar and every fun thing in the city whenever he was in town. Tari didn’t complain, though. His life was otherwise boring after work. He got off the elevator and looked at the clock above Meg’s head. He was late. 12 minutes late. “Morning, Meg!” He said as he arrived at her desk. Meg gave him a fake smile, shook her head and said “Good morning, Mr. Whiteriver. Go right in, he’s expecting you.”. “Thank you.” He said and went into his boss’s office. He knew what he would hear. He’d gotten the mail for this meeting while he was out drinking with Dan sometime past 1am but had not seen it till he had woken up at 7:33am.
His boss was on a Skype call. Tari took a seat quietly. He couldn’t hear the other side of the conversation, the man had his headset on. But Tari had picked up who it was on the other end and what the discussion was about. He was beginning to doze off when he suddenly heard “Tari! Glad you could make it.” It was his boss. He could hear the sarcasm loudly. “I’m sorry, Sir.” Tari replied sitting up.”What were you doing all night?” his boss asked. Tari smiled but made no reply “Anyway,…” his boss said and went on to explain what he had in mind. The sister company in Kuwait had partnered with another concern and had gotten an inroad with a gas firm on ground in Mozambique. Their company would be handling the environmental impact assessment. It was now a done deal.
Tari was now sure to travel. He had no dog he’d miss while away and he’d always been away from his folks. A call was a call, no matter what part of the world it originated from. He had no girlfriend too. His ex had refused to relocate to Nigeria after she finished her MSc in the UK. She’d done her PhD and was now lecturing. She had visited him slightly over a year ago. The experience had been a bad one. Aside the fact that she complained about everything – the traffic, the heat, the power, etc, there had also been a failed armed-robbery incident that had made her get on the next available flight to the UK. Tari had no plans to go visit anytime soon, he’d done enough of that. And, anyway, the relationship was over. There was a fundamental ‘no-agreement’ – He can’t settle abroad.
He had a job here, doing what he loved, there was no way he was giving that up. He would go anywhere the job demanded, stay as long as it took to get it done, but would not consider settling down anywhere else. He dragged his mind back to the contract his boss was showing him. “I’ll share them all with you online, just wanted to give you a preview.” He said. Tari nodded. “Language barrier. How do you suggest we handle that? You’ll be the one out in the field interacting with the locals.” He said leaning back. “Yes, Sir. It did cross my mind. I could hire an interpreter-cum-guide.” Tari replied. “OK? Find out what those cost.” His boss replied. “Still, I need learn the basics. Complete ignorance could prove deadly.” Tari said, knowing the dangers associated with these kinds of jobs.
“Hwz it goin 2 b?” Tochi’s message appeared on her screen. “I’m sowi. Coverin an event 2nyt. Will call u.” she replied. She looked herself over in the mirror. “How do I look?” She asked Becky. “You look great, dear. Tari is in trouble!” She replied and they burst into laughter. It was the second time June would be going out with Tari. The first date, they’d gone out for drinks. Though they’d parted ways that Tuesday night without any talk of seeing again, he’d kept in touch and had messaged her twice after The Morning Show just to let her know he’d listened. ‘Two out of three was not bad’ She had thought. He’d called her up last night and asked if she would like to attend a fashion show, he had 2 VIP tickets and thought she’d be interested. “Sure!” She’d replied. Soon he’ll be here to pick her up.
“Becky. Was going to ask you, sef.” June suddenly said. “Uhm?” Becky replied, looking up from her German novel. “Shebi you also speak Portuguese?” June asked. “Yup! Why?” Becky replied. “You know, last night, Tari told me he would be taking some trips to Mozambique.” June began. “Mozambique, keh?” Becky asked. “Yeah. You know he works with an oil servicing firm. I think they do some consulting for oil companies and all that. So they got a deal there. He said something about it being one of the biggest gas finds last year.” June continued. “Ok….” Becky said wondering where June was headed. “Since there is the language issue, he said they speak Portuguese, it occurred to me that you could help him out. You know, like do some coaching before his trip.” June finished.
“Have you to-” Becky was saying but was interrupted by Tari’s call. June picked up, “Hello” She said, grinning from ear to ear. “Ok. Sure. Come on in.” She said, then hung up. “He’s outside.” She said to Becky. “Ok. I’ll let him in.” Becky said rising from the bed. “I have not told him yet. I wanted to ask if you’ll be interested. You know, you’ll be doing me a favour and earning some money too.” June said. Becky didn’t know why she thought it was a bad idea, but she decided to be calm. “I get.” She said as she walked the distance to the door in time for Tari’s knock. She opened the door and was slightly surprised to see two very good looking men. “Hi, do come in.” She said, managing quite well. “Hi, I’m Tari, we’ve met before.” Tari said hand outstretched, Becky took it in a shake, “And this is my brother, Dan.” He added. Becky took Dan’s outstretched hand too.
“Of course, we’ve met, Tari. Welcome, Dan. Please have your seats. She’ll be here in a minute.” Becky said and made to leave. “And why are you not coming?” Dan’s voiced stopped her in her tracks. She turned around and looked at him. She didn’t have to be told what he wanted. His handshake had been a heartbeat too long. She smiled, she needed an apt answer. “Because Tari categorically said he had 2 tickets.” June rescued her. “Unless the two of you plan on sitting here while we girls go.” She added, stopping beside Becky. Dan laughed. “Tickets? I don’t need tickets. The tickets are for you two.” He addressed June, referring to her and Tari. “I am one of the photographers for the event and I think I just found my fabulous assistant.” He added, now looking at Becky.