Three weeks passed and there was no word from Fola’s end. Demola had called a few times to find out if they had awarded the contract to another company but he couldn’t get any substantial information. I was starting to worry because I knew that if we didn’t get that contract, Demola would blame me for it and that would mean trouble.
“Chineke, biko, meere m ebere. I cannot be out of a job now.” I pleaded every time I thought about it.
“Don’t worry jare. Even if they fire you, I’ll talk to Kene, he’ll hire you, small thing.” Salewa tried to encourage me.
“As if it’s that easy.” I kissed my teeth.
Then one fine morning, as I resumed for work, Demola summoned me. My heart jumped right into my mouth. What if he was calling me to fire me. I was so scared that I hesitated going for a minute.
“If he just gives me a termination letter, I’ll just start rolling on the floor and pleading.” I murmured to myself as I walked to his office. To my surprise, he was smiling. My heart stopped racing for a bit, maybe he wasn’t going to fire me after all.
“You won’t believe it, Fola Wiltshire called. He wants to have further discussions on the project.” He announced gladly.
“What?” I shrieked, “that’s wonderful.” I said, relieved that my job was safe.
“Best news I’ve heard all month. At least now I don’t have to fire you.”
“Huh?” I chuckled nervously.
He actually considered terminating my appointment. Thank God for putting my enemies to shame.
Demola laughed and said,
“The first meeting with them is scheduled for tomorrow, so you and your team will go to discuss the plans with them.”
“I don’t understand.” I said.
“You’re the one in charge of the project not me. If you…”
“In charge of the project?”
“Yes. You’re the one who put the whole proposal together. Who else will manage the project if not you?”
I wanted to protest but I dared not to. I had just gotten out of one trouble and I wasn’t about to get into another. Besides I knew that once Demola had made up his mind about something, it was almost impossible to change it.
Since I was going to be in charge of the project, it meant I had to work with Fola Wiltshire. The mere thought of it irritated me. I knew we would clash more often than not so I decided to tell Demola I wanted Salewa to work with me. Since Fola was acquainted with Salewa, it would be easier for us all to have her around.
Demola didn’t protest to it, he never disagreed with anything that had to do with Salewa. He had tried it once and even threatened to fire her. All it took for Salewa to put him in his place was to get her husband to buy shares and become one of the owners of Bridges. So now, Salewa was the sacred cow of the office, I mean, she practically owned the place. She only took on projects she was interested in and I knew she would be interested in this one, mostly because she wanted to do amebo.
I rushed to give Salewa the good news and asked if she was interested in working with me.
“Of course I am now. Even if you didn’t ask, I’d have added myself to the team.” She said.
“So we’ll get to see that fine man again, ope o.” She squealed.
“Aunty you better face the work we are going there for. I don’t even know why you’re this excited. Don’t you have a husband?”
“So because I am married now, I cannot admire God’s creation. Oga o.” She clapped her hands.
“We have a meeting there tomorrow so better behave when we get there. Don’t go and embarrass me.”
Salewa completely ignored the point I was making and started teasing me.
“All this gra gra you’re doing, oya lie now that you’re not happy that you’re going to see him again.”
“The only thing I am happy about is the fact that my job is no longer on the line. Why will I be happy to work with that chauvinist?”
“Let us hear word joor. You know that guy likes you right? I’m almost sure you’re one of the reasons why he’s giving us this contract. You sef, I know you have a crush on him.”
“No I do not!” I said, half screaming.
“Abegi! You and I know you like him. He fits into your general aesthetic and if you had met him under different circumstances, it would have been love at first sight.”
I knew she wasn’t lying but I wasn’t going to agree with her.
“Well thank God I didn’t. I would have wasted months of my life with him before finding out how terrible he is.” I insisted.
Salewa squeezed her nose in a bid to mock me as she spoke.
“No problem now. Shebi we are here? We’ll see.”
I bought a bottle of Bena’s favorite champagne on my way home so we could celebrate. She had taken off her cast the day before plus this news, a toast was necessary.
“I’m happy for you babes. Not only did you keep your job, they also made you project manager. Congratulations.” She hugged me after I announced.
I popped the bottle open and while pouring the champagne into our glasses, I told her how much I was dreading working with Fola and how sure I was that he was going to stress me.
“On top of that, Salewa seems to think I have a crush on him. Can you imagine?” I handed her a glass.
A mischievous smile crept across her lips as she took the glass from me.
“You know she’s not lying.” She sipped from her glass and looked at me.
“Did you guys plan to gang up against me?” I asked her.
“Of course not. We’re only telling you the truth. If you didn’t like him, you won’t even be bothered about him. But look at you, going on and on about him. The guy is probably sneezing nonstop because you keep calling his name.” She laughed at her joke.
“I don’t like him.” I insisted, unsure if I sounded convincing enough.
“Tell yourself that if it makes you feel better but I don’t know why you’re denying it. Nobody is going to judge you. He’s tall, dark, good looking, rich, and an all round eligible bachelor.”
“How do you know this?”
Benazir hadn’t met him before.
“Well I asked around. He went to Uni with a few of my friends and from what I gathered, he’s not such a bad person.”
“Oh please!” I rolled my eyes and sipped from my glass.
I didn’t understand why all of them were advocating for him all of a sudden. For all I knew, their assumptions could be wrong.
“Listen Uno, I think you need to loosen up. Don’t judge him because of one small misunderstanding.”
One small misunderstanding? I couldn’t believe it. They were acting as if I was a mad, vindictive woman who was picking on a man who hadn’t done anything to me. Somebody offended me, didn’t apologize, instead continued pushing my limits but it’s me who’s judging him.
“I don’t understand. Did he brainwash you people?” I asked her.
“Brainwash? How? I’m just sharing my opinion, nobody brainwashed me.” Bena said as she turned her face to the other side.
I shook my head vigorously and drank. These women were indeed a handful.
The meeting for the next day was scheduled for 10am and I made sure I got to Twig before 9:45am. I didn’t want to give Fola any reason to be rude or talk to me anyhow. This time, I even had hard copies of all the documents for the project. I wasn’t going to give him the opportunity to be nasty.
Chima and a new intern were already waiting there and Salewa rushed in a few minutes after ten. She sat beside me and apologized for coming late.
“Sorry I’m late. Some car broke down on Alexander road and getting out of there was a madness. I had to get out of the car, walk down to the link bridge and get an Uber.”
“Wow, sorry o.” I said to her.
“No wahala.” Her hand had turned to a makeshift fan to complement the air conditioner and dry the small beads of sweat forming across her forehead.
While we waited for Fola to see us, Salewa admired the office and said,
“Fola has good taste sha. See how nice the space looks. Even a lounge area for staff. This my dear, is office goals.”
“Better focus on why I brought you here and stop chuking your eye everywhere.”
“Please abeg, let me be.” She looked around again. “I’ll tell Kene to suggest this at the board meeting so we too can..”
“The MD will see you now. Please come with me.” The receptionist finally announced.
“Thank you.” I said.
She led us to Fola’s office, where he was waiting in the company of the woman we had previously met, Florence.
“Good morning.” Fola said as he shook hands with each of us.
I wore a plastic smile as I shook hands with him before introducing Salewa and the intern.
“We already met.” Salewa laughed lightly.
“Yes.” Fola smiled. “How are you, Mrs Okafor?”
They both laughed as my smile turned into a frown. Salewa was at it again, fraternizing with the enemy right before my eyes.
When they were finally done, we took our seats.
Fola spoke first and explained why the campaign was very important to him.
“I’m supervising the advertising campaign myself because it’s the most important part of our project. We all know that if the advertising is bad, the entire project is as good as useless.” Fola said. “That’s why we have decided to out source it to your team at Bridges. We could have done it alone, I mean my PR team is up to the task.” He smiled at Florence and continued, “But I have decided to out source it to professionals like you because I don’t want to leave any stone unturned in making the best out of this. For us here at Twig, this is our biggest project so far. We have pumped in a lot of money into this and we want the best out of it, so please do not fail us.”
This was more than ‘further’ discussions, he had given us the contract. I smiled knowingly at the rest of my team and said confidently,
“Bridges has never been known to disappoint. We deliver every time and it will be no different this time.”
“Great then, welcome on board. We look forward to working with you.” Fola shook hands with us again.
“Thank you. Can we go through all our ideas now?” I asked. I wanted to be over and done with the meeting in the shortest possible time.
“Unfortunately, I am running late for my next meeting so I cannot stay for this. How about you discuss with Florence and she’d get back to me?” He looked at Florence then back at me. “Is that good enough?”
“Yes it’s fine. Since she…” I was saying before Fola interrupted me and made a request that more than shocked us.