UNFINISHED BUSINESS [EPISODE 03]

What?! You missed the first two episodes? Where did you go?

Alright, alright, alright. Catch up on the first two episodes by clicking on EPISODE 01 and EPISODE 02. Don’t worry, we’ll wait for you.

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“I was 13 the first time. And I only watched.”

“She was drugged. She’d eaten my brother’s famous, or should I say infamous potatoes porridge and vegetable sauce. When she woke up, she threw a big fit and flung things all over the place. Our neighbours came out and my mother met a large crowd in our compound as she returned from the market.”

“She handed the bags to me and headed straight to the poor girl who held on firmly to my brother’s trousers, insisting that he must pay for what he did. No one was sure of what she meant by ‘pay’ or the transaction that took place. Mother slapped her so hard across the face, she staggered and fell, letting go of my brother. The crowd gasped and silence fell on everyone immediately.”

“Everybody should gettt outtt of my compound now!”, mother barked.

“The crowd dispersed quickly. My mother was a force of a kind in the neighborhood. Fearsome, loud and downright ill-tempered. The girl stayed face down on the ground but mother was unperturbed if she were dead. She motioned to my brother and me to go indoors while she came in behind us. Some minutes later, I peeked out of a window and the ground was vacant. The girl was gone.”

**************************************************

Keysa moved into a lush office on the fifth floor, as close to Gregg’s as her father could arrange. On her first day, she made a point to introduce herself to everyone whose office was on the fifth floor.

“I am Keysa. You’ve probably heard about me. I am the Chairman’s daughter. As a software expert here, I bring a strong education background and a few rewarding years of work experience from the States. I like to think I know my onion and I hope to contribute to the company’s advancement. Of course, it helps to have the Chairman’s ears but I won’t go around all entitled. It’s good to meet you.”

Her speech was almost the same to everyone. She looked in your face as she spoke and her voice did not quiver. Her palms were soft and made her handshakes feel like you were pressing your hands into foam.

When she got to Gregg’s office, she opened the door without knocking.

“Gregg”, she called out in a playful tone, “my father wants us married by force. We had better get the romance started. I’m down the hall now”, she smiled semi-mischievously.

Words deserted Gregg. “Welcome to the fold”, he managed.

“Indeed. How have you been?”, she asked, barely looking at him. Her eyes scanned the room.

“Very nice office you’ve got. Wait till you see mine though. Do you guys do that here; a competition over who’s got the finest office? We don’t do that in the States but you know how vain Nigerians can get”, she laughed.

“See you around Gregg or – my husband. I think I should call you that”. She shut the door and continued her rounds.

**************************************************

“Keysa is not like the others. She’s different.”

“Are we talking about Keysa today?”

“Yes we are”

“Anything you say”

“She doesn’t see me like they do. Her father would like us to be together, beyond all his jests. He really wants that. It’s all a joke to her. I am a joke to her.”

” Perhaps she has someone else back in the US. You cannot rule that out. She was there for a long time.”

“I doubt that.”

“Because?”

“She would have said so. Her father would have known. She’s not the dodgy kind.”

“What do you want from her? Unlike the others, she wants nothing from you. It should not be a problem since she goes around paying you no mind that is unprofessional. Take ‘Lamide for instance, that’s a problem! Keysa is not a problem, so focus and answer the question. What do you want from her?”

“I think I see where you are going with this”, Gregg smiled bashfully as he pointed at me, “and no, that is definitely not what I want from Keysa.”

“It’s not? Really? It seems that way to me. You turn a blind eye to the ones you have considered ‘weak’, ‘business-as-usual’, and this strong one with a clear head comes around and sleep is off your eyes. All you want is to conquer!”

“You are saying I’m incapable of caring for a lovely lady?”

When he put it that way, I had to question my own conclusions. But yes, I believed Gregg was not able to truly care for Keysa; at least not yet. The tale he had told was grim and when I thought about how he carried such grimness around in a poise jacket, I feared for the daughter I’d have.

“It was over dinner that my mother told my father about the drama with the girl. They sat at the back of the house, a breezy open space where they always had dinner and spoke in loud voices.”

“Through my window, I heard them clearly every time. You could hear them clearly anywhere in the house.”

“Your son entered one sisi today. She come dey cry, say he must pay her”, she laughed.

“Which of my sons?” Father asked. I could hear the emergence of laughter in his voice.

“Tony”, mother said.

“Action man!”, father exclaimed and choked on his food. He had a cough fit that broke into laughter and then into more coughing , then he gulped water and it was just laughter.

“I have told you Tony is the main man! All the other ones you gave me are women in men’s skins”

“Wait, wait, let me finish the story before you start. I pounced on her. I gave her a slap she would never forget” mother dramatized as she spoke.

“I trust you. Who did she think she was dealing with? In my house?!” Father feigned anger.

“She did not say. She just gripped him by the waist and said he must pay! She did not say what he was to pay, she just said pay! I slapped her and she fell. All these gossips on the street were emptied in this compound, every one of them! I chased all of them away. Let me hear someone carry my son’s talk in their mouth on this street. Then I will show them that fire and thunder are brothers!”

**************************************************

It was Gregg who grew fond of Keysa. It was he who began calling her “my wife” and she dutifully replied, “my husband”. It was Gregg who blurred the lines of formality and began a cozy friendship. They exchanged work ideas and became each other’s confidant and advisor. Each had the other just an email or a ping away.

When Keysa needed a companion to encourage her to visit the gym, she had Gregg enrol. When Gregg gave the keynote address at the Young Professionals Summit, Keysa had a front row seat as she listened to the speech she edited. When Avengers 2 was released, she sent him an urgent message,

Avengers 2 out!!! In cinemas now! See you there in 30. I’ve got tickets. Leave whatever you’re doing. This is important.

When the presidential election results were being collated and broadcast on live TV, they almost never got off the phone.

“Buhari is leading.”

“Did you hear that man from Rivers State?”

“Yes, all that light and he still could not read a document he wrote!”

Gregg knew of her life in the US. He knew how she adored her father because she understood him. He knew she feared dogs of all kinds. He knew she was weary of male attention because she felt most men could not see beyond her wealth and status. He knew she was a terrible dancer who either did not know of her own bad dancing or was in wilful denial. He knew she enjoyed soulful music and had the habit of going out of her way to cram the lyrics of songs she enjoyed.

It was Gregg who charted the waters of friendship. He wished she would not be so sisterly. He hoped she would stop telling him about her man trouble as though he were not a man. He hoped she would stop asking him how she looked when they went out.

“I want to be noticed by the right kind. How do I look?”

“I hope I am not showing cleavage.”

“Please is there something in my teeth?”

**************************************************

Nothing escaped ‘Lamide.

Months before Laja, a storekeeper in Finance was discovered stealing large packets of office stationery, it was ‘Lamide who first noticed that Laja was chubbier and wore first grade used sneakers. It was her who first told Angela in Legal to go for a pregnancy test. Angela laughed off the idea as preposterous but was nursing her baby boy few months later. It was not unusual to go to ‘Lamide when you wanted to know the state of origin of a colleague’s mother or the school a colleague’s children attended.

“His children attend Pacesetters Academy”, she would say, eyes narrowed at her listener like she was surprised the listener did not have that information. She never lost that sense of wonder how little other people knew about other people.

“He seems to speak with a slightly strange accent.”

“Yes, his mother is Togolese. His primary education was in Togo. You mean you did not know?”

“Yes, I did not know”, her listener would reply. No one ever pointed it out to ‘Lamide that such information was a strange one to have.

Keysa and Gregg did not slip by her.

The story continues…

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