“Hello.” I said into my phone.
“Come to my office please.”
“Okay.” I ended the call and stood up.
“Oga wants to see me.” I told Salewa.
“What have you done again?” Salewa teased.
I frowned and shook my head as I walked to his door. I knocked and waited for his approval before I entered his office.
You sent for me.” I said.
“Yes Uno, sit down.” He set his iPad in front of me.
“I want you to go through that website very well and tell me the first thing that comes to your head when you’re done.”
I picked up the iPad and looked at the screen. The first thing that came to my head was how sophisticated the website looked. It was obvious that the website had been designed with the aim of selling luxury to anyone who looked at it. The website title read ‘The Twig Company’ with the tagline, ‘We’ll build your dream’. I scrolled down and took a quick glance at the rest of the page, before handing the iPad back to Demola.
“So what can you see?” He took the iPad from her.
“Well, the first thing I noticed was the sophistication of the website. They look like a really big company.” I answered.
“Yes they are, and if we do business with them, we’d smile to the bank and even your paycheck will smile too.”
“I’d like that very much.”
“That’s why we have to work hard for it. I’m sure you noticed that they’re a real estate and interior design company. So they not only find you your dream house, they also design it to your taste. Their clients are the biggest men in the country and they have estates in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, and Calabar.” He explained.
“That’s great sir. But where do we come in?” I asked.
“Very good. Now, word reaching me is that they are in need of a solid advertising campaign to break into the Ghanian market and they’re willing to pay dearly for it.”
“So you want me to come up with ideas we can pitch to them?”
“Yes, something very fresh that no one has seen or heard before. I’m giving you this task because you’re one of the most intelligent people around here, plus you’re young. I hear the MD of the company is a young and vibrant man. Chances are, both of you are in the same age group and you definitely think alike. So if you come up with a genius idea, I’m sure he’ll love it.”
“Ok then, I’ll start working on it immediately.” I replied.
“Wonderful. Anything else?”
“No, please get to it ASAP.”
I was walking out of this office when he said,
“Oh lest I forget, you’re the one who’s going to make the presentation. So work on that part too.”
“Presentation?” I said in shock.
“Yes, presentation Unoaku. Any problem?”
“Yes Demola, a big one at that.”
“What is it?”
“I can’t make a presentation. I’m very shy, I’ll mess everything up.”
“Shy ke? A whole you? Is it not you and Salewa I hear shouting and disturbing every time? How can you be shy?”
“I’m sociable here because I am friends with everyone. I can’t talk in front of people I don’t know, I’ll disgrace myself.” I said in fear.
“Listen Uno, I’m counting on you to do this for the company. You just need to focus on the presentation and not the people. You’ll do great, I trust you.”
“But Demola I…” I protested again.
“No buts Unoaku! You’re making that presentation and that’s final!” He said sternly.
I walked out of the office silently, thinking of what to do. As I got back to her desk in the open office space, Salewa’s voice interrupted my thoughts.
“How far? What did he want?” I heard her loud voice in her head.
“Answer me now.” Salewa stretched her hands and tapped me vigorously.
“Ouch! What did you do that for?” I winced.
“When you refused to answer me nko?”
“What were you asking?”
“So you weren’t even listening to me? Umu aka ehnn.”
I laughed. Hearing Salewa speak Igbo always amused me. Salewa was a Yoruba girl married to an Igbo man, so she was forever trying to adapt to our culture, speak our language, cook our local delicacies, and even act like us. But no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t pronounce the words right. The few statements she could make, she had learned from me, because anytime I spoke Igbo, she would repeat after me until it stuck in her head.
“Nonsense. I said, what did Demola want?” She asked again.
“The man wants me to get ideas for a pitch.” I replied.
“So why are you frowning?” Salewa asked.
“Because he also wants me to make the presentation.”
“Really Salewa? You know I can’t talk to a crowd of people.”
“Is the whole company going to be present at the presentation?” Salewa asked.
“Of course not. What kind of question is that?”
“Toh. I was just wondering. This one that you are talking about the crowd, I thought the whole company was going to be present. Or maybe you want to give the presentation to Paul Adefarasin’s congregation.” Salewa mocked.
“If you’re trying to help me, you’re doing a terrible job.” I rolled my eyes.
“Help you ke? Which one is my own? If you can’t do it, won’t you tell the man that you can’t?”
“You think I didn’t tell him? I told him, but he says I must do it.”
“Oya do it now. What’s the worst that will happen? Pata pata, you lose your voice and they don’t give us the contract. You lose your job and you go back to your village. Big deal?”
“That’s such a nice thing to say to your friend. Thank you. I feel so comforted.” I replied with deep-rooted sarcasm.
“You’re welcome, love.” Salewa reciprocated the sarcasm.
I relaxed in my chair and thought about what Salewa had said. Making a presentation couldn’t be that bad. I just had to remember what Demola had said,
“Focus on the presentation and not the people.”
If I focused her mind on my presentation, I wouldn’t have to worry about all the people in the room. I decided to challenge myself and give it my best shot. This was a defining moment for my career here and I didn’t intend to waste it.
After spending almost two hours in traffic, I finally arrived at my Lekki apartment. I went straight to my room to settle in. After taking a shower, I proceeded to the kitchen. She found Bena trying to cook with one hand. After all the pleasantries, she asked Bena why she was cooking.
“You should have waited for me now. You’re still recovering.” I said.
“It’s not a big deal.” She smiled. “Besides, you’re just coming back. It would be unfair if I expected you to cook for me. At least let me be useful.” She checked what she was cooking.
“Abegi, it’s nothing.” I said.
Even though I didn’t really like cooking, I didn’t mind doing it at a time like this, it was necessary. I told her to take a seat and let me continue. After some persuasion, she finally agreed.
“So how was your day?” She asked.
“It was annoying, grrrr.” I sighed as I started chopping the onions.
“What happened?” Bena looked at me pitifully.
“It’s Demola o. He wants me to work on ideas for a project and present it at the meeting.”
“They want you, to make a presentation?” She was amused.
“Yes o, can you imagine?” I cried.
“I thought you hate public speaking.” Bena said.
“My sister! I really hope I don’t go there and start stuttering.”
“Of course not. You need to calm down. I’m sure you’ll be great. Just wear one of those your power dresses and red lipstick, your confidence will be 100.” She advised.
“How does wearing red help me for God’s sake?” I asked.
“I don’t know.” She laughed. “All I know is that red lipstick makes everything better.”
“Go jare.” I laughed.
Talking to Bena always made me feel better because she knew how to comfort me, such a sweet woman.
After dinner, I went back to my room to continue the work I had started in the office. The presentation was the next day and I needed to make sure it was perfect. I hated short notice briefs like this because they didn’t let me be as creative as I wanted to. How did Demola expect me to come up with something great by the next morning? Was I going to perform magic? How do you have a presentation for the next day and only inform me today? That’s why he wanted me to present so that if anything goes wrong, he could put the blame on me. Tufiakwa! My enemies will never see me.
Thank God I’m a smart woman. Soon enough, ideas started flowing. I bounced them off Salewa and she helped me refine some of them. I called her so much that she started complaining that I wasn’t letting her spend time with her husband.
“Nwanne m, don’t be angry o. You know people like us depend on this job for our daily bread, unlike some people.” I fake- apologized.
“Abeg don’t start o. Just carry your wahala and go.” She said as he hung up.
I laughed as I went to bed. I was finally ready to kill it the next day.
“Uno wake up! It’s 8:20!” I heard Bena scream in my sleep.
“8:20?! Jesus!” I jumped out of bed.
“Why didn’t you wake me up since? I’m extremely late now.” I ran into the bathroom.
“I was sleeping too. I thought you would have left the house already, only for me to see your car parked outside.” Bena searched her wardrobe, looking for what I would wear.
“What do you want to wear?” She asked.
“There’s a mustard Calvin Klein dress, with black buttons, please help me bring it out.” I shouted from the bathroom.
In less than thirty minutes, I was ready and after packing my laptop bag and all the things I needed for her day, I hurriedly left the house.
“Good luck!” Bena shouted to me.
“There’s no way I am getting to that office before 9 am and the presentation is supposed to start at 9.” I said to myself as I got into the car.
I drove as fast as I could, stepping on the accelerator every millisecond. Things were looking up for me as it seemed like I would only be a little late until I got to the toll gate. The traffic was terrible and it was moving slowly. I regretted not listening to Salewa when she advised me to get an e-tag.
“Anwuolam o.” I said under my breath.
Demola was going to kill me.
Twenty minutes later, I had passed the toll gate and was nearing Oriental hotel when a Prado hit my car from behind. I parked immediately and jumped out of the car. The driver that hit me also parked his car but he did not come down.
After briefly examining the small dent in my car, I ran to the Prado and banged the tinted glass furiously.
“How could he hit my car and still be comfortably seated in his?” I thought to myself.
The young man took his glass down and raised his index finger, then pointed to the phone he was holding close to his ear, gesturing her to be patient.
That infuriated me so much that I hit his car harder.
“Madam, I’m on the phone, can you calm down?” He said after briefly removing his phone from his ear.
“Are you serious right now?” I shouted. “You just hit my car obviously because you were answering a call while driving and you’re telling me to calm down? Are you ok?”
People were already gathering and analyzing the situation.
“Please let me call you back.” The young man said and he ended his phone call.
He got down from the car and walked to my car to examine the extent of the damage. I laughed and clapped my hands as he looked at it calmly, he could not be serious.
“It’s because of this small dent you’re causing a scene?”
“A small dent? Do you know what this small dent has caused me?”
“If fixing it is your problem, you don’t have to worry. I’d take care of it.”
“Seriously?! You think I am looking for handouts on the streets of Lagos?” I wasn’t going to take this rubbish lightly.
“So what is your problem? I’m in a hurry and I don’t really have time for this.” He was undaunted.
“Haba oga, you no suppose dey talk like this o. Na you cause this thing.” One of the onlookers said.
“How is this any of your business?” The young man turned and looked at him sternly.
“You must think the whole world revolves around you.” I said. “You hit my car and you don’t even have the decency to apologize for it, you’re here telling me you’d fix the car.”
“Do you realize I also have to fix my car too? You’re not the only one who’s affected so stop shouting.”
This guy was definitely a goat.
“I’ve never been more irritated in my life than I am now. You’re just so full of yourself that you have to make everything about you. I’d love to stay and school you but I don’t have time to waste. Proud idiot!” I hissed, jumped into my car and zoomed off.
The idiot had spoilt my day and I knew it wasn’t going to get better. Demola had called me twice and Salewa had called five times already. I knew he was already furious because there was no way we would get there in time.
“Abeg, he’ll only shout at me. What’s the worst that will happen?” I muttered to myself as I drove into the office.
If only I knew what was waiting for me.