I was going to go to the bathroom, call Bena and tell her what was going on, how Fola’s behaviour was confusing and how I thought he was just messing with my head. But just before I got to the door, just two inches away from the door, I missed a step, tripped over and fell down.
The sheer embarrassment!!
Everyone must have been looking at me, wondering if I was too blind to see the step. Having that in mind, I refused to get up.
God forbid that my eyes will see one of my enemies laughing at me.
To make matters worse, Fola was sitting right there, watching me make a fool of myself.
If the ground ever considered opening up and swallowing me, now was a perfect time because what was this disgrace for?
I hadn’t offended anyone before, well maybe a few juniors in secondary school but still on still, was this enough reason for this shame and disgrace? Was my God wearing flip flops? Where did my chi go? What was that rubbish? Actually, this was Salewa’s fault.
How did I let her convince me into wearing these shoes for God’s sake? Why didn’t I just come to this meeting from work? What is this nonsense?
All these thoughts ran through my mind in one split second, make it two actually. While I was waiting for the ground to swallow me, Joseph had already come to me and the next person I saw rushing to my side was Fola.
Isn’t this ground going to swallow me? It’s now or never o.
“Are you all right?” Fola asked as he squatted beside me.
“Yeah, I’m okay.” I said, unsure if I was really okay.
He and Jospeh helped me up and led me back to the table. Everyone was staring at us as if they had never seen somebody fall in their lives.
This is the work of my enemies and my God will avenge me.
Once I was seated in my chair, Fola bent over to examine my legs. While at it, he wiped my knees with a serviette.
“Are you sure you didn’t hurt yourself?” He asked me.
“I’m fine, really.” I tried to free my leg from his grip because knowing him, he can go and tell everybody that he saved me from the hands of death.
“You’re sure you’re not in pain?” He asked me again.
“I’m not, it’s not that serious.” I reaffirmed.
I was surprised that he was showing so much concern because the person I came to dinner with seemed like someone who wouldn’t bother. It was so weird seeing him show care and as much as I hate to admit it, it was nice too.
Fola straightened himself up and I stood up too. We were so close to each other that I was sure he was breathing in the air I was breathing out. For the first time, I noticed how tall he was. He was about 6’2, so I was standing tall, just a little above his shoulder with high heels on.
Our eyes met and he smiled, you know those deep smiles where your eyes crinkle? Yup, that one. I knew I was going to melt if i didn’t leave there because again, shivers flew down my spine.
I gestured with my thumb to the bathroom and he took a few steps back to his seat while I walked away. This time, I made sure to keep my eyes on the ground before I go and disgrace myself again.
I entered the bathroom and shut the door. I let out a heavy sigh and started pacing back and forth. I had to talk to somebody so I decided to call Benazir and let it all out. But almost immediately, I decided against it. I had made too much mouth about hating Fola for a woman who now only had the thought of his smile in her head. I slapped my forehead because what was this rubbish? How did I just forget all the rubbish the man had done because of small concern? What was wrong with me? I thought the general idea was that one good deed didn’t cancel 99 bad ones? Abi my own brain didn’t get the memo? Na wa o!
I looked at myself in the mirror but I wasn’t sure what advice to give myself. All I knew was that I couldn’t let that man get into my head.
“He’s a bad guy. Don’t fall for his charm.” I said out loud looking at my reflection in the mirror.
I nodded my head in agreement with myself, took a deep breath, let it out and walked out of the bathroom.
By the time I got back to the table, the starters had been served. I sat down and adjusted the crease on my dress.
“You good?” He asked me.
“Yeah I am.” I noticed he hadn’t touched the food. “You’re not eating?”
“I was waiting for you to get back.” He said.
“Oh.” I avoided eye contact.
I picked up the cutlery and started to eat and he did the same thing. We ate quietly till we finished the starters. Joseph came to clear the table and told us that our main meal was on its way. I figured it was finally a good time to start talking about why we had come to dinner in the first place but Fola wasn’t having any of it.
“Forget about the campaign for now,” he sipped his wine. “let’s talk about you.” He said.
“Me?” I was confused.
He chuckled, “Yes, you.”
“We’re not here to talk about me.”
“But I want to talk about you.” Before I could stop him, he asked, “Tell me, do you enjoy your job at Bridges?”
“Yes I do, a lot actually.” I smiled. “But at the moment, I’m trying to adjust to my new responsibilities.”
“New responsibilities?” Fola asked.
“Yes, project management.” I beamed.
“And how’s that coming?” He asked.
“It’s tough. I’m not used to heading campaigns, I usually just stay behind the scenes and work. Now I feel like I’m on the spot. I have to impress, be res…”
“Impress your boss?” Fola asked.
“No, you. Isn’t that why we’re here talking about me?”
“We are here talking about you because I’m genuinely interested in getting to know you and if you want, we can talk about me too.”
“Oh really?” I rose my brow.
“Yes,” he chuckled. “What do you want to know?”
Just then, Joseph served the food and boy did it look good and what more? It tasted even better. God knows that if I was there alone, I’d have descended on it like a wild animal but I maintained composure, like a lady that I am.
“So,” I started talking. “What’s it like running a company, being responsible for so many people, making money and,” I paused “maintaining your family’s legacy?” I asked him.
“You googled me?” He chuckled.
“I didn’t have to. Who doesn’t know Fola Wiltshire in Lagos?”
“Haba, I’m not that popular.” He laughed.
“Okay maybe you’re not and I googled you.”
He laughed again, harder this time and I joined in too.
“But tell me, what’s it like? Are you constantly under pressure?”
“Isn’t everyone under pressure?” He asked me.
“Well, fair enough, but what’s your own pressure like?”
“It’s harder than most people think. There’s the pressure to keep up, to outdo your siblings, to be the golden child, you know, that sort of thing.” He tried to explain but I didn’t get it.
“Why are you trying to outdo your siblings? What’s the competition for?”
“It’s just business. My father has quite a number of businesses so when he was retiring, he sort of left my siblings and I in charge. Each person runs a different company so, at the end of the year, everyone wants to prove to the big guy that they’ve made the most profit.”
“Oh I see. So how many times have you made the most profit?”
“Since I started managing Twig six years ago, three times. I’ll outdo them again this year if Bridges does a damn good job with our project.” He smiled at me.
“Oh we will, we will.” I assured him.
“I’ll take your word for it.”
He smiled and I smiled back. This dinner was going better than I expected. It was like a miracle, maybe the man had an epiphany or something because I didn’t understand it.
“Another question,” I went ahead to ask before he had the chance to say anything. “Do you fear that one day your family may go bankrupt and you’d have to start building from scratch?”
He laughed loudly.
“First of all, God forbid.” We both laughed. “Secondly, I have a few personal investments here and there, so I’m not even one of those spoilt rich kids depending on their family’s fortune.” He said proudly.
“At least you agree that your family has a fortune.” I replied.
“Of course. Why would I deny it?” He said.
I smiled as a notification popped up on my phone screen. I looked at it and noticed the time, 21:47.
“Wow. It’s almost 10pm and we didn’t even talk about the campaign.” I exclaimed.
“We were not going to. I don’t discuss serious business outside the office, especially with a beautiful woman. I can’t handle the distraction.” He smiled slyly.
I tried hard not to let the flattery get to my head but I failed woefully. I blushed. My chi would have been so ashamed.
“Well, you’re welcome.” He smiled. “We’ll talk about the campaign properly tomorrow. What time will you be available?”
“Just tell us when you’re free and we’d be there. Your campaign is our priority.”
“We?” Fola raised an eyebrow.
“Yes, my team and I.”
“I thought we had broken the ice. You don’t have to drag your team to every meeting. I mean, I don’t have to see them every time. That’s why you’re the project manager, you go for the meetings with the client then brief your people when you get back to the office. That’s how things are done”
“Well, pardon my ignorance. What time are you available to meet?”
“12 or 1pm, I’m not too sure but if you give me your number, I’ll call you when I confirm.”
“I’m sure you already have my number. It’s on one of the documents we presented.”
“I don’t want to get your number from a document, too official and restrictive if you ask me.”
Please let nobody ask me if i gave him my number because you know I did.
Just then, the waiter came with the bill. He handed it to Fola and I was going to ask to pay for my food when Fola asked me if I wanted dessert. I declined because I didn’t want him to think I was a glutton.
“If you’re full, you can just take it to go.” He offered.
I insisted I didn’t want it before he thought that I jumped at every offer. He took out his card and paid for the food and after he tipped Joseph, we were ready to leave. I stood up and Fola followed behind me and when we were almost at the door, he walked ahead of me and held the door open for me to walk through.
“Thank you.” I walked past him.
He came out immediately after me.
“Did you drive?”
“Yes, I did.” I pointed to my car just across the street. “I parked there.”
Next thing I knew, this man stretched his hand towards mine in a bid to take my hand in his. Thank God my flesh didn’t fail me this time. I pretended like I didn’t notice what he was trying to do and crossed over to my car.
I opened the car from the remote and Mr chauvinist turned chivalrous opened my door for me to get in. I smiled at him, got in and shut the door. After dropping my phone and my purse on the passenger’s seat, I turned on the ignition and brought the glass down.
“Thank you for dinner.” I said politely.
“I bet you didn’t think I was such great company.” Fola replied.
I started the car and said,
“Don’t flatter yourself mister, goodnight.”
“See you tomorrow.” He smiled as I zoomed off.
As I drove home, I replayed the events of the night in my head and smiled sheepishly to myself. Who would have thought that my night would go that well? Even Salewa…
Then I remembered, the worst was about to happen.