“What?!” Iphey spluttered.
She could have sworn that she just heard her supervisor tell the entire operations staff and their managers that the procurement schedule template would be available at the armed robber meeting.
“I said it would be available at the advisory board meeting,” Funmi spat at her.
“Yes ma,” Iphey responded, suddenly finding something very important in her notebook. She wiped at a bead of sweat that wasn’t there, trying to relax. She passed her notebook to Bisi who was seated next to her, “Please, help me take notes. I’d be right back,” she whispered and she excused herself.
She didn’t exhale till she had shut the bathroom door behind her. “Oh dear, I’m losing my mind!” she said to the empty bathroom with her hand on her chest. She walked up to the sink, and washed her hands though they weren’t dirty. The running water provided some kind of solace.
It started when Funmi called on the intercom at about 10am, asking for a client’s armed robber, which was actually the client’s asset report. She felt like her mind was playing tricks on her. It had been a few days since she met with Chinedu, and she thought she had wiped him off her mind; only, to wake up this morning and find him sleeping peacefully next to her. She screamed and then woke up, and realized that the first wake-up sequence was only a dream.
She didn’t understand why this thing with Chinedu bothered her so much. After all he'd said it was in the past. Could it be that this hit so close to home because she refused to accept she was attracted to him? The finely chiselled frame of his face fluttered in her head as it had done every so often since her date, and gave her an instant thrill.
"But how could someone with such an honest demeanour have ever used a gun in his life?’ she thought. She shook her head rapidly like it was the proven method of clearing ones thoughts and winced at the headache she gave herself.
“OK,” she spoke to the washbasin this time, with new found determination, “I’ve had enough of this. I have a job to do.” She straightened her empire waist dress in front of the mirror and looked herself straight in the eye. “You can’t let this worry you. He’s not important. You’re probably never going to see him again.”
She looked around to ascertain that no one else was in the bathroom, ignoring what it seemed her conscience was saying to her. She didn’t want to become ‘office gist’ for having a nervous breakdown in the bathroom.
She pulled open the bathroom door holding her head high with square shoulders, but weary about how far the pep talk she had just given herself would go.
* * *
She got home that evening and finally decided to return Aisha’s missed calls. Her friend had tried to reach her non-stop since the night of the date, and she had ignored every one of the calls, because she couldn’t decide what to tell her. What if her well-meaning friend didn’t know of Chinedu’s past? What if it turned out that Aisha’s brother had a history of armed robbery as well, since they were so close?!
Her friend picked up on the second ring and didn’t bother with the perfunctory pleasantries. “I know what you’re trying to do,” Aisha started with a tone that made Iphey feel that she was furious, “you want me to drop dead in suspense!”
Iphey managed a believable chuckle before responding, “No be so now. I’ve been busy. How body?”
“Body dey as you leave am. No use that one waste time. Give me all the juicy details. Did you guys hit the club after dinner? Is he a good dancer? More importantly, is he a good kisser? Did he take you home? How was it?”
“It was nice,” Iphey replied. The silence that followed hinted that Aisha was waiting for more.
Aisha spoke up when he friend said nothing else, “Come on! Who do you think you’re talking to? Your Mum? I’m asking for gist, you’re giving me the version for the people who still believe that you’re a good girl.”
“It was just a regular date now, abi?” Iphey replied, “I met him at the restaurant. We talked about our backgrounds, our families, secondary schools; etcetera. The food was good sha.”
“And I went home after the meal!”
“As in? Did you ask for his number?”
“He gave it to me but I’m sure he can call me if he really wants to.”
“Hmmm. What are you not telling?”
“Nothing important, I’m serious.” She decided that she would not be the one to tell Aisha about Chinedu’s past if she didn’t already know.
“OK o,” Aisha replied, in a resigned tone, “but be sure that I don’t believe you completely. Do you want to see him again?”
“I don’t know,” Iphey laughed to lighten the moment and avail herself a change of subject. “Meanwhile,” she continued, “Ayo PM’ed me while we were sitting across from each other at a meeting this afternoon.”
“Who’s Ayo again? I know Tunde the flirt...”
“No, this is my branch manager now. The one who wants me to schedule my leave at the same time he’s taking his, so we can travel together.” She emphasized the last two words to stress the idiocy of the idea.
“Wait, are you sure you’ve told me about this guy before?”
“Yes now, Mr. You-like-me-but-you’ve-not-realized-it-yet.”
Aisha burst out in peals of laughter, “He said that?!”
“Well, maybe not in those exact words, but he might as well have. In his message today, he was like: ‘so why do you look so sexy this afternoon. I’m trying so hard not to be lustful’. This man is married oo...”
“OK, that’s just nauseating. You need to teach him a thing or two about appropriateness.”
“Oh, I sent him a very nice email, which is probably why he didn’t stop by my desk to say goodnight when he was leaving. There's more gist oo...”
“OK, hold it for me." Aisha's voice was hurried, "My dear, I have to get off now. TJ just drove in, and dinner is almost not ready.”
“No starve my broda o,” Iphey replied with a laugh. “OK then, goodnight!”