Tari put his phone away. It was refreshing to be out on the field again, working on a client’s site. His mind was however in a turmoil. He had just left a 3rd message on his brother’s phone saying who it was and asking for a call back. He didn’t know why he bothered though, it was obvious Simon didn’t want to reconnect with him after all the years. He thought back and tried to remember the last time they had seen, they had been boys then. Their dad had gone into transport business, buying two buses with his severance pay and savings and had surprised everyone by growing his fleet to over 20 buses in less than 3 years. He had then gone into spare parts business, while stepping up the transport business to an interstate concern. It was sometime during those years that a family meeting had brought them all together. Since then, he’d seen no one but his aunt.
“It’s all good.” he said.
Becky was grading test scripts form her S.S.S 3 students when she heard the tone, it was an email. She picked up her phone and looked, it was from Tari’s company. It was brief and to the point – she had to make herself available on Friday to receive foreign partners and begin her job as a translator. At the end of the evening, she would learn when next her services would be required. She was also to log the hours and send them in after each engagement. It was some sunshine for her gloomy day. It was not just the dark clouds that had gathered overhead, but the way she had felt all week. June had told her it would take some tact to attract Dan, giving him the phone number out of the blues would be clearly desperate. “Give it time.” June had admonished. “When next there is an event or something, we all can hangout. And before then, try and be nice to him whenever you meet.” She had added.
All of the scheming was rubbing her wrongly. This was not her. It was taking its toll, making her cranky and dull. She just had to focus and get through this period. Writing a list of items she needed had helped, because it reminded her why she could not fold her arms and let opportunities go by. She knew she would find even more joy in checking items off the list as the cash came in. She looked at the details of her duty again, committing it ti memory. The partners were arriving on a 10:15pm flight at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport on Friday. She was to respond to the email with her address, so a car could be sent to pick her up at 7:15pm. She would meet with other team members before heading to the airport. Accommodations had been provided for her in the same hotel as the foreign partners. She was excited as she hit “Reply”.
June was having her first meal of the day after her time on air. Her phone lit up, she had not taken it off silent mode, it was Tari calling. She shook her head.
“Hello” Tari said, when she picked up
“Mr. Whiteriver. Nice of you to call.” June replied, sarcasm dripping from each word
“How are you, June?” Tari asked, pushing past the sarcasm.
“What do you think, Tari?” she shot back
“I think you are fine. Listened to you all morning, you sounded great as always.” he replied, trying hard to avoid a conflict.
“Well, that is not because of you. I have a duty to perform.” she replied
“Okaaaaaay? So, you are not fine?” he joked
“Tari! Is this any way to treat a woman? You said you were going to call me. Since Sunday morning! This is past midday on the Tuesday after. Not even a text message.” She poured.
Tari kept quiet as it hit him that he had promised to call her since the last time they saw. “Shit!” he mouthed without a sound.
“Hello?” June said when she heard nothing.
“I’m here.” Tari said.
“What have you to say for yourself?” June said, giving him an out. She was going to scold him, but was not going to get into a fight over this. She knew his actions were not malicious. If he came at it apologetically, it would end well.
“I’m sorry. I have no excuse.” he said.
“See, I know you are most times very busy, but you can make out a few minutes just to check on me.” she admonished.
“Yeah. You are right. I’m sorry. Let me make it up to. There’s this lounge I know. How about I pick you up after work?” he offered.
“Ok. That’s fine with me.” June said, after a spilt-second thought of turning him down. There was no point, all men had flaws, she could live with this kind.
June was dressed and waiting for Tari. She and Becky had been talking and watching their series. She was super excited for Becky.
“I’m going to come join you in your hotel room! I bet its going to be plush.” June said laughing.
“Sure, why not? I’d be bored alone anyway.” Becky replied with a grin
“Trust me, you won’t be bored. There will be so much you could do, and many nice folks to meet.” June replied with a wink.
Becky laughed. “I know, right? I’m just kind of worried about the schedules. Possible clashes with school work.” she said.
“Yes, that occurred to me. Could you get some time off?” June asked
“I’ll speak with my HOD.” Becky said
“Mrs. Victor? I suggest you go with a nice gift as well.”
June’s phone beeped, she looked at it
“Still stuck at the office. Will call you once I get a chance.”
It was from Tari. She sighed, got up, and took off her dress, crumbled it up and tossed it through the door and on to the bed.
“What happened?” Becky asked, picking up June’s phone to read the message. “Awwww! Sorry, hon. But he has not cancelled yet, naa.” she added. Rubbing June’s arm.
“I have lost interest.” June said with a note of finality.
“I’m no longer interested, Tari.” June repeated. She was sitting with him in his car, clearly not dressed for the outing. He had arrived a few minutes ago, after several unanswered calls to her, and had been trying to convince her to still go hangout with him.
“June, it was work. We have folks flying in on Friday, we have a lot to cover before they get here.” He explained.
“I’m aware of all that. I’m not mad at you, I just simply lost interest. Its late as well. I need to prepare for tomorrow. Going to my PPA after I leave the station. Need to sort out some stuff.” June replied, adamant.
“Ok. How about you swing by the office on your way back tomorrow?” he suggested.
“Maybe. I’ll try.” she said.
As Tari drove off, he was reminded why he never wanted to commit to anyone in the first place. It was too much darned work.
Tari was pouring over some specifications when his office phone rang.
“Hello?” he said, answering it on the 1st ring.
“Miss. June is here to see you, Sir.”
“Fack!” he swore taking a quick glance at his watch.
“Sir?” the receptionist asked.
“Send her up.” he said and hung up. He had completely lost track of time. He was not quite 60% through with his tasks for the day, despite coming in at 7am to get an early start on it.
Tari was massaging his temples when there came a slight rap on his door. “Come right in.” he called out, eyes closed. Her scent quickly covered the distance and asserted itself on his sense of smell. He opened his eyes to find June smiling at him from the doorway. He stood up and walked around his desk. She looked so good in an expensive-looking sky blue shirt with a bishop collar and intricate details. Her pants looked like they were made on her body – fitted, smart, flattering her curves. All business, still sexy.
“You mean to tell me you are coming from your village school looking like this?” he said.
“What is wrong with it?” June asked, shutting the door behind her and walking towards him.
“Nothing’s wrong with it, Its just unbelievably right.” Tari said making June giggle.
He took her in a warm embrace and kissed her briefly on the lips. “How are you?” he asked
“Famished!” she exclaimed, collapsing into a seat.
“Chinese, Turkish or Indian?” he asked, as he picked up his phone.
“I’ll have what you are having.” she replied.
Becky still had more than an hour to wait before the arrival of the car that was to get her to the airport. She could barely stay still. She examined the contents of her carry-on again. making sure she and all she needed to pass the night at the hotel. She zipped it up and carried it to the living room where June was busy playing a game on her iPad.
“This top is okay, yeah?” Becky asked June.
“See how excited you are! Ready over an hour early. If it were a date now, we would have to practically push you out of the door, half an hour behind time.” June said without taking her eyes off the screen.
Becky laughed then sat beside her roommate to wait for her ride.
At 7:12pm, her phone rang. Someone introduced himself as her driver and told her he was at the school gate and needed her to speak to the security guard on duty. Becky was passed on to the guard in question. She recognised Aminu’s voice the moment he came on the phone. She quickly asked that the driver be let through, got returned to the driver who said a curt “Thank you, ma’am.” before hanging up.
“He’s here!” she said to June.
“Wow them, Hon.” June said giving her a hug. “And make sure you have fun, don’t be a drag.” she added as they both walked to the door. They Becky opened the door in time to see the driver approach in a black sedan with tinted windows. From the crest in front she could tell it was a Benz.
“Nice.” June said
“S500.” Becky murmured, as the driver manoeuvred to point the car back in the direction he’d come from. She gave June a quick hug and walked towards the car. The driver got out, walked around to the rear door facing her and opened it for her. She smiled at him.
“Good evening, Ma’am.” he said with a nod as he took her bag from her.
“Good evening.” she said and got in the car.
He shut the door after her, went behind and placed her bag in the trunk before getting behind the wheels. Becky waved at June as the car moved off before it occurred to her that June would be unable to see past the tinted glass.
“My name is Niyi. I’ll be taking you, first, to the office, ma’am.” the driver said.
“Thank you, Niyi.” Becky said restraining herself from grinning.
At the office, Becky was immediately taken to a conference room, by an assistant, where for the first time, she met the other members of the team. She was introduced to the others as the translator. She met the C.E.O., his P.A., the Chief Engineer, Meg and Tari. She shook hands with them all, the C.E.O was particularly nice and warm to her. Meg seemed the coldest. Tari was the odd one, she could not place him. He just seemed aloof. She kept quiet as they all talked and put finishing touches to their plan. She didn’t deem it necessary to speak until she heard anyone speak Portuguese. She only spoke when she was directly addressed, and on both occasions it was by the C.E.O., basically questions on her preparedness and understanding of the situation which she answered confidently.
Two members of the team were to meet the TQ representatives at the airport: Becky and Tari. The assistant would also be going with them. The three left for two cars downstairs. Becky rode alone, driven again by Niyi, while the two men who seemed super engrossed in a discussion, got in another black Benz S500. Since her last trip from Lagos over 6 months ago, Becky had not visited the airport. It has been a sad occasion for her the last time. This, however, was a very happy one.
At the airport with about 17minutes to spare before the arrival of the flight they expected, both vehicles parked side-by-side and the three of them got off, followed by Niyi who brought a placard with the names of the two delegates written on it. The other driver stayed put.
“Você está bem vestido.” Tari said to her.
“Obrigado!” she replied with a genuine smile. She felt a sense of pride to hear him speak Portuguese.
The flight was a few minutes late and then they had to wait for the delegates to get their luggage and clear customs. Becky was beginning to get tired as passenger after passenger walked past them ignoring Niyi’s raised placard, when a tall and nicely dressed lady waved in their direction.
“That’s them.” Tari said, urging the assistant and driver to go help with their baggage.
The other person in the party was a good looking older man who was no where as tall as the lady but exuded a certain kind of confidence. Becky approached them with a bright smile, she could hear the man asking in stuttering English if the car park was far.
“You are welcome!” Becky said to them in Portuguese, keeping her smile warm and welcoming. They both looked at her and returned her greetings with smiles of their own.
“You talk Portuguese well?” the man asked, pleased
“Yes, I do. My name is Becky and I am here to translate for you.” Becky replied in Portuguese.
“My name is Zenaide and this is Patrick.” the lady said in Portuguese.
“We are pleased to have you here. This is Tari, the Environmental Impact Assessment Expert.”
“Its a pleasure.” Tari said in English as he shook hands with them. He’d rather listen in on conversations and have Becky translate to clear all doubts than try speaking and make a mess of the language.
“This way, please.” Becky said, leading them to the waiting cars.
She led Patrick and Zenaide to the car driven by Niyi while she got in front and chatted with them all the way to the hotel. Once they were checked in and settled, she also got herself checked in, then went back to them one after the other to drop her room number and mobile number. They both were tired and said she could go for the night, since she was just a phone call away, at worst a few doors away.
She went to her room, unpacked her small bag, took some pictures of the room and shared with June who sent back an “In love” smiley. This was all coming together nicely, Zenaide and Patrick seemed like nice enough folks who would not give her any problems. She did know this was the easy part, though. The real tough part was having to sit in on meetings with all the technical and business jargon she would have to keep up with. She stepped into the bathroom and decided on a soak. She painstakingly brought the water to the right temperature and quantity, poured in some bath gel, picked up her German novel and immersed herself in it. She was just getting comfortable when her room phone rang. Quickly she tossed the novel away from the tub and her planned path, stepped on to the mat, wrapped a towel around herself the made a dash for the phone.
“Hello.” she said into the mouthpiece
“Hi” Tari’s voice came across. She rolled her eyes.
“What’s up?” she asked, slowly sitting on the edge of the bed.
“Just checking up on you and to ask if you need anything.” he said
“Thank you. No, I’m fine.” she replied.
“Okay. Please log your hours and mail them in as soon as you can. From the time the driver picked you up to when you got them settled in. Also charge whatever you buy to the room. I’ll handle them all at the end of your stay.” he said.
“Okay. I will. Thanks.” she said
“Good night.” he said and was gone.
She held the receiver to her ear a while listening to the dial tone, before replacing it. What did he mean? Was he going to process the bills or pay her bills from his pocket? She had started to ponder when she suddenly caught herself and decided not to bug herself about whatever he did. “Focus, focus, focus” she said as she went back to her soak.
Becky sat down with her meal. It had been a gruelling 4 hours of meetings. She, Patrick and Zenaide had left the hotel, driven by Niyi to the office at about 8:30am and had met the C.E.O., his P.A., the Chief Engineer, Tari, and three other technical guys already waiting in the conference room. Introductions had been made and Becky had taken a seat specially prepared for her. It was strategically placed behind and in between Zenaide’s and Patrick’s. She had never had to listen and speak so quickly for so long, her mouth practically hurt. She was impressed with herself but had more than welcomed the break. Tari had given a presentation that seemed to have really impressed the Mozambicans and they had asked a hoard of questions. In all, they seemed satisfied.
As she attacked the food, she noticed Tari come in. He got his food and settled at a table to her right, she saw him say a short prayer over the meal before he began. He made quick work of the food and was done even before she was half way through hers. Then he got to his feet, picked up his drink and left without as much as a greeting to her.
From her discussions with Zenaide she had gleaned that they would be around till the next weekend. It was a week long visit; hopefully, her HOD would let her have the week off. She was enjoying all of this, including the challenges. Tari’s standoffish behaviour was the only irritant; he’d not said a word directly to her all day. No matter how he acted, she decided she would cope. “It’s just one week, Becky.” she reminded herself. She would swing by the house after the day’s business and get stuff to wear for the rest of the week, she might as well settle in and enjoy the ride.
Becky got off the elevator and walked towards her room, just back from the day’s business meetings. She had gotten a call earlier from June who had come visiting her at the hotel. Though she had asked that her keys be given to June, the receptionist had also called to confirm. She knocked on her door.
“Who’s it?” June called from beyond the door.
“Tari.” she said in the most coarse voice she could muster while managing to keep from giggling.
“Very funny, Becky.” June said as she swung the door open.
“Is that how I sound?” Tari said, coming into view.
Becky didn’t know whether to laugh or apologise. “Hi, Tari.” she managed.
“Hi, Becky.” he replied.
“Tari told me how impressed everyone has been with you.” June gushed
“Thank you.” Becky said as she slipped off her heels. She was not quite used to those.
“You deserve it. Anyway, I was just on my way out. Brought you guys some stuff.”
“Thank you.” Becky said again. She looked around the room as June and Tari exited. There were two bags of Chinese take out on the table. Somehow, she felt her space had been violated. Not by June, of course, but by Tari’s visit. She could do nothing about it, though. It would hurt June to bring it up. An invite to June was an invite to her man, that went without saying. She had to accept it. Work had actually closed about an hour earlier, but she had had to take Zenaide and Patrick to a place someone had suggested they visit. Zenaide had insisted she left them there, as Niyi would be called to come get them back to the hotel whenever they were done. Apparently Tari had headed here while she had gone on that errand.
She didn’t know why, but she inspected the bed, it looked not particularly disturbed nor arranged. Satisfied, she lay down with a sigh.
“I’m travelling on Friday.” June said, as she and Tari got on the elevator.
“The wedding?” he asked, pushing the button marked ‘G’.
“Yes, Asaba. Bach eve on Friday, then wedding on Saturday. I should be back on Sunday evening.” she said wrapping an arm around his’.
“Ok. What time is your flight?”
“Is it okay if I have someone drop you off at the airport? Will most likely still be working then.”
“Thanks, darling. That would be fine. Thanks for stopping by.” she said as the elevator came to a halt
“Anytime.” he said, gave her a brief kiss and steeped out of the elevator. She didn’t intend to step out, she was not properly cladded. She pressed Becky’s floor button and began her ascent.
June stepped into a slight drizzle as she disembarked from the aircraft. There had been a slight delay due to the weather, but it had eased up and they had had a smooth landing. She had her handbag and a small carry-on. After all, she was only here for 2 nights. That made it easy for her – not having to wait for baggage claim. She hoped he was here already. She checked her messages:
“Whr r u?” she read.
“Walkin 2wdz d exit” she replied as she unconsciously quickened her pace.
Communication between herself and Clifford, the bride-to-be’s younger brother had picked up in the past week, chatting constantly and often long into the night. She saw him, looking every inch as dapper as the pictures of him he had sent her. He enveloped her in a bear hug, before lifting her off her feet and spinning around, laughing while she screamed.
“Welcome, June! You have not added one ounce since we last met!” he said still laughing
“Behave, young man!” she said slapping his chest with the back of her hand.
“Hmmm. The car’s right over there. We’ll drop your stuff at my place, and then we can head to the bachelor’s eve.” he said
“Go and bring it around. I’m not walking in that!” she said pointing at the rain that had once again picked up.
“Anything for you.” Cliff said, with a kiss to June’s right cheek.
Cliff fumbled for the keys as June giggled behind him. He finally managed to get the door opened and they both stumbled into the house. June made a bee-line for the bedroom where she collapsed in bed laughing. They had both had a little too much to drink at the party. Cliff’s manager had had to put them in Cliff’s car and drive them home. Cliff dragged out a tripod and set it before the bed, then mounted a camera on it, got his angles right, hit the ‘REC’ button and switched his sound system on.
“Wow! That’s loud.” June said. “Who’s song is that?”
“Something I’ve been working on.” he replied
“I like it.” June replied, kicking off her shoes.
“Let’s make a video.” he said, pulling his shirt over his head.