She had just returned from seeing one of her clients about an overdraft facility he wanted on his account, and was walking back to her office when her manager beckoned her into her office.
Funmi gestured to a seat. "Good morning, Iphey. Please shut the door - this won't take long."
Iphey sat down, wondering what was up; she got on reasonably well with her, so she couldn't figure out why she sounded unusually curt. Her apprehension mounted as Funmi went on to talk about the unprofessionalism she said she had observed in Iphey's work, and how she preferred to let her know about it first rather than writing a query. Iphey was quite shocked; she tried to ask her to be more specific, but Funmi cut her off, saying that she had said everything she wanted to say.
Iphey responded by emphatically stating that Funmi was being unfair in not giving her a fair hearing, and things went rapidly downhill from there. The encounter left her really rattled, she was certain that there was more it that met the eye. "Best not to think too much about it", she muttered to herself. After all, there was this date to look forward to.
Her friend, Aisha had been pestering her forever to go out with this friend of her brother's. She wasn't exactly filled with confidence; the last person that Aisha had recommended had not turned out so well. She’d almost refused, but Aisha pleaded that this guy was really good. The truth was she doubted that Aisha even knew the kind of person she wanted.
Iphey sighed as she put finishing touches to her makeup and prepared to step out of her flat. Aisha had managed to persuade her this time, but only after she swore never, ever to trouble her with her randomly picked blind dates if this didn't work out.
She had also agreed because of the impression she had got when her date called to set up the time and venue. He had appeared charming, intelligent and well-spoken - definitely no red flags. He seemed a bit reticent to give more information about himself, though. All she knew was that his name was Chinedu, and he "ran an engineering business”. Well, at the very worst, it sounded like she might have a more interesting time going out than staying in, even if nothing happened.
The skies were already darkening when she stepped out of the cab in front of the restaurant that they'd agreed to meet at. She looked around, wondering if he might be waiting outside, but she didn't see anyone who looked like they might be him. Maybe I'll have more luck inside, she thought as she walked in. Again, she scanned the dark interior.
"Is he late?" she wondered aloud. She hoped not; one of her pet peeves was people who disrespected others by not keeping to time.
"No, he's not. In fact, he's been watching you since you entered, and he's quite impressed by what he's seen," she heard a voice say in the same deep baritone she had heard on the phone.
She turned round, startled, and saw someone who looked to be in his early thirties, of average height, a bit slim and medium complexioned.
He smiled at her and continued, "Sorry for the unusual introduction... I shouldn’t have chosen a table out of sight, but I usually find the view outside the window provides interesting things to talk about. I don't think that will apply this evening, my eyes will be taken up with a much more beautiful spectacle."
She smiled back. "Thank you, Chinedu - that's a very nice compliment."
He led her to her table, and they ordered their entrees straightaway. The evening passed pleasantly; she told him all about herself, her schooling, how she got a job at Diamond Bank, what she would really like to do if she had the money, places she would like to travel to, her views on the different places she had been to, and so on. Chinedu seemed genuinely interested and impressed by her ideas and her views; the more she talked, the more he wanted to know. She was definitely enjoying herself.
Iphey leaned back and smiled at him. "You sound like a very interesting person. I'd like to hear more of your views on the world; you've not talked a lot about yourself."
Chinedu smiled. "What business does the moon have in the sky when the sun is out shining? My life these days is not that interesting; you'll agree that we've both enjoyed ourselves listening to you talk."
"But what if we could enjoy ourselves even more by listening to YOU talk? Oya... spill the beans!"
He made an expansive gesture. "OK, what do you want to know?"
She grinned back mischievously. "Tell me your deepest, darkest secret."
Chinedu appeared to think for a while. Then he leaned closer to her and whispered, "I used to be an armed robber."
Iphey stared at him. Then she laughed. "Be serious now."
"I am being serious."
Iphey shook her head. He must be joking - who would come out openly and say such a thing? Even armed robbers wouldn't do so. "So assuming you're telling the truth - why did you go into armed robbery?”
"For the same reason that most other people do - lack of opportunity elsewhere, and a friend drew me into it with the promise of making a lot of money from it. The honest truth is that back then, I felt that I had to do what I had to do. I saw people as objects rather than as human beings with feelings, so I didn't feel bad about doing what I did. But that was then."
"I don't understand how you can be so open about your past."
Chinedu smiled, and made the same expansive gesture as before. "Well, you wanted to know my deepest, darkest secret... there's a saying, 'beware of what you ask for, because you may get it'."
They continued chatting, but the earlier pleasant mood of evening for her had definitely soured. After a few more minutes, she stood up and announced that she had to go.
"What a pity. I feel that we were really enjoying ourselves. I came with my car; I can drive you home if you like."
“No, but thanks anyway.”
He insisted, but she was firm. She did assent for him to wait with her while she hailed a taxi, but responded to his chat in monosyllables. Eventually, a cab turned up, and as she got in, he gave her his number and said that he would like them to meet again sometime.
"Let’s see how it goes," she murmured.
As the taxi sped off towards her flat, she reminded herself to call her sister and update her mother. Aisha would have to answer about Chinedu later.