If you had asked David Folajimi what he needed to be happy seven years ago, he would have said something like, ‘In no particular order, a great paying job which will enable me to afford a sleek, trendy car, an amazing apartment, preferably at Magodo G.R.A, Ikeja G.R.A, or any of those tush mainland areas. The island is over-reated jare – the floods, mosquitoes, terrible power supply and all. My friends and family are always there, so that’s that. I think that’s pretty much it.’ But looking at his friends with whom he had graduated from the university, he discovered that there was something – or someone – missing from that list.
Bashorun was digging it on the dance floor with his beautiful wife who was a few inches taller than him, but still deemed it fit to rock a pair of high heel shoes. Neither of the couple seemed to be bothered by that though; their faces were filled with smiles. Kachi was carried away as he watched Ndidi, his light-skinned wife helping at the food stand. She walked around to see if there was anyone who had not eaten, and inquired if those who had wanted anything more. Ndidi was blessed with hands that produced some of the tastiest dishes Dave had ever tasted. No wonder Kachi’s stomach was starting to protrude, barely a year into marriage. Clint, the one who married recently was all over his wife, whispering into her ears from time to time, while she giggled in response. Tito, the birthday celebrant, was the only one who seemed to be on the same level with him, only a little higher. He was in what he described as ‘a serious relationship’ and marriage was clearly in view for him.
Dave had never felt so lonely, though surrounded by the people to whom he felt closest. Having studied Finance at Obafemi Awolowo University, he had graduated with a 2’1 and doggedly chased the dream of having a steady and enviable career in less than 10 years. Now, at 28, he was living the dream. He had all he truly desired, except a woman to call his own.
‘Hello everybody,’ Tito’s deep voice came through, interrupting Dave’s thoughts. A voice the people of Lagos had grown to love, listening to him on the radio every evening. Dave had not noticed that the music had stopped playing. ‘Can I have your attention, please?’
People returned to their seats and silence gradually filled the air as they listened to what the celebrant had to say.
‘I want to say a very big “Thank you” to all of you who came out to celebrate with me today. You all made my day. Thanks for the beautiful presents and compliments. I am indeed touched. I would love to mention names, but I don’t want anyone to leave here feeling unappreciated.’ Smiling, he looked around. ‘However, there is one person whose name I have to call, because her presence in my life has done things to me – good things.’
Somebody whistled and the crowd began to clap and cheer.
‘Sade, where are you?’ he asked, looking to his left. He spotted her and stretched his hand towards her. Smiling, he said, ‘Please come.’
Folasade, his tall, slender girlfriend, dressed in a stunning blue dress walked up to him, amidst loud cheers. Tito held her hands and hugged her. After releasing her, he reached into the pocket of his red velvet blazer and produced a small blue box. Sade, astonished at the reality of what was about to happen took a step back and covered her mouth, her perfectly manicured nails visible for all to see. The cheers grew louder as Tito went down on one knee and popped what everyone now knows as ‘The Big Question.’
‘Folasade Omolewa Badmus, will you marry me?’ he asked, smiling.
Sade looked towards the company of friends and family gathered there. Many were recording the moment on their phones, some of the ladies were grinning dreamily, obviously wishing they were in her shoes. She looked back at Tito and laughed.
‘Yes, I will, Boluwatito. I’ll marry you.’ She nodded and stretched forth her left hand as a teardrop found its way out of her eye.
Tito inserted the ring in her finger and stood up, a wide grin plastered on his face. He pulled her close into a tight, warm hug.
Dave laughed loudly, joining the rest of the people to celebrate the couple. Tito had successfully surprised everyone present at the party. He was happy for his friend, but there and then, a weird feeling took over him. He had never felt so single all his life.
Dunni could not help the ‘them-go-take’ smile that was on her face. She was fully prepared for her interview at Jimi Consults on Monday. She had stayed home for six months after the completion of her NYSC programme and was on the brink of giving up when she found the job vacancy for a personal assistant at the firm.
‘How do those people who claim to have been unemployed for three, six years do it?’ she asked Anna, her cousin and roommate. ‘I could die of boredom and uselessness.’
‘This is Nigeria, babe,’ Anna replied. ‘Survival, even in the harshest conditions, is something embedded in our genes.’
Dunni shrugged. ‘Survival, abi suffering in silence?’ she said, rhetorically. She walked to the wardrobe and swiftly picked out three shirts.
‘If I didn’t know better, I would have concluded that you applied some charms to these shirts. Don’t you get tired of them?’ Anna asked, bewildered.
‘Haba! When was the last time I wore any of them?’ Dunni replied. She picked one of the shirts, which now lay on top of each other on the bed. ‘I like this one because it’s peach. Peach is my favourite colour.’ She picked another and continued. ‘This one has some sort of good luck charm in it.’
Anna raised an eyebrow, about to throw another question at her but she averted it quickly with the wave of a hand. ‘Don’t ask me to explain, I can’t.’
Anna shook her head again, watching her cousin revel in excitement. Pointing to the last one, Dunni added. ‘This one is peach too, and again, I love peach.’ Arms akimbo, she continued, ‘Besides, I don’t have many shirts now. How many places do I go to where I am required to wear shirts? Don’t disturb me oh!’
‘I hope you get this job, so you can at least up your wardrobe game,’ Anna replied, a cocky grin plastered on her face.
Dunni rolled her eyes. ‘Whatever.’ She walked to the front of the dresser and grinned widely. ‘Monday is going to be amazing. I can feel it in my bones.’
A crack of lightning illuminated the sky for a brief moment. Subconsciously, Dave braced himself for the sound of thunder, and it did come. Standing at the window of his large bedroom, he sipped from the cup of hot coffee in his hands, reviewing the activities for the day in his mind. There was going to be an interview for a new personal assistant for him. Ordinarily, he tossed the baton of job interviews to John, his right hand man, but this had to be different. He needed to choose who would take Edi’s post. Edidiong, his personal assistant for about three years, had gotten married about a year earlier and decided to resign after finding out that she was pregnant. Having lost a baby before, it only made sense that she cut down on a lot of activities, especially her job. He could go on a leave for a year and leave Edidiong in charge of his engagements without as much as a worry. He really missed her.
His alarm sounded and Dave knew he had to prepare for work. It was one of those days when he beat his alarm to it. Just then, it started to rain. He sighed as the realisation of how difficult driving would be that morning engulfed him. He did live on the mainland as he had hoped, and even though the floods were not as much here, they still had a fair share of them.
He emptied the cup of its contents and headed for the bathroom.
Dunni scurried out of the house, holding her umbrella firmly. The rain, though reduced now, had come unannounced. She had been woken up abruptly by a loud thunder, accompanied with flashes of lightning.
‘Wow! Is the world coming to an end?’ Anna asked, sitting up beside her.
Dunni laughed. ‘Yes, but definitely not today. I think that’s a cue from God that I need to get ready. Today is the big day.’
She hurriedly stood from the bed and stretched, yawning lazily.
‘Well, get going and let somebody sleep abeg. How big can a day possibly be when it’s raining?’ Anna replied, smirking.
‘Don’t even go there. Use your bad words to ruin my day? Nope. Not happening!’ Dunni shot back, frowning slightly.
‘Yeah, whatever! Anna said, pulling the duvet over her head.
Just as Dunni had expected, there was a long queue at the BRT stop. Exasperated, she grunted as she walked towards the last person on the queue. After waiting for about 20 minutes, she finally boarded a bus. She knew traffic would be crazy, especially since it had rained. She watched cars and buses, move at snail’s pace as their bus zoomed off. Normally, she would have considered catching some sleep, but she was so excited, sleep evaded her.
‘Who’s this amateur?’ Dave bellowed angrily as he pressed the horn of his car, as if to vocalise his annoyance.
The car finally made a u-turn successfully and the road was free for some miles. Still burning with rage, he took a sharp turn and the car’s tyre plunged into a pothole, almost emptying it of its contents. He gasped, hoping that no one was standing close-by. He did not want to be the one to ruin anybody’s Monday. He looked through the rear-view mirror and saw a young lady looking at his car in shock. He exhaled loudly, preparing himself for whatever she was going to throw at him. He reversed and got out of the car to apologise.
‘Don’t you have a conscience? Did you drive with your eyes closed?’ she began, her eyes half-way popping out of their sockets.
Oh great! He thought. ‘Woman wahala on a Monday morning. Can this get any worse?’
‘I’m really sorry. I didn’t see the pothole quickly. I am very sorry,’ he said, looking at her stained pants.
‘I don’t know how people can be so inconsiderate,’ she continued, still trying to get a smudge off. ‘Because of you have a car now; you feel you can treat anybody anyhow?’
Dave wished he could undo what he had done with the wave of a hand. He was at a loss on what to do to pacify the young lady. She was truly irked but there was a tinge of hope on her face. Or was it just him?
‘Miss, I really do apologise. I am sorry.’
Dunni gazed at the tall man standing in front of her as the apologies kept coming. As much as she tried to dismiss the thought, she could not help but think that Anna’s words could actually be affecting her.
That girl is a witch, she thought.
‘It’s fine,’ she finally said. She was prepared, knowing how Lagos drivers could be. She could not afford to take any chances.
The young man kept tendering apologies much to her chagrin. It was beginning to annoy her. ‘I said it’s fine. I really need to go now,’ she replied as she made to walk away.
‘Well, can I at least give you a ride, just to make up for my mistake?’ he asked.
Dunni was tempted to jump at the offer. She looked behind him, at the car. It was an indeed sleek ride and its owner was not looking bad either, dressed in a well-tailored suit. Besides, she was running late and could really use a ride.
‘Well, what do you say?’ he asked, obviously eager for a response. From the look on his face, she could tell that he was indeed sorry, but did not want to waste any more time there.
‘Fine,’ Dunni replied. He led the way and opened the door for her. ‘Thank you.’
The cold from the car air-conditioner hit her as she took in the nice scent of the car. He joined her seconds after and fastened his seat belt. She did the same.
‘My name is Dave,’ he said after a brief silence.
‘Dunni,’ she replied tersely.
Dave smiled. She had reacted just as he had expected, but he felt the need to at least, put her at ease after potentially ruining her day. He pressed further. ‘So where are you going to?’
‘Somewhere around Brent bus stop.’
‘Oh great! I’m headed in that direction as well. Do you work there?’
‘Not yet, but I will soon. I have a job interview there.’
Dave was impressed at how certain she was that she would get the job. A thought crossed his mind: perhaps she was attending the interview at his company. That would be a very interesting twist.
‘Is it at Jimi Consults?’ he finally asked.
‘Yes,’ she replied, more impressed than shocked. ‘You know there?’
Dave grinned. ‘I work there too.’
Dunni’s eyes lit up. Who would have thought that she could meet someone from the company that morning? She briefly glanced at him. He was going to be her co-worker if she got the job – or her boss? No. He was too young to be her boss. She chose not to dwell on the thought any longer.
‘Wow! What’s your job there?’ she asked.
‘Well, nothing out of the ordinary. I just see a few people, sign some papers. It’s just, you know… There.’
Dave saw her face contort with confusion. He was enjoying this.
‘So do you have any tips for me or something? I heard the job opening is for a personal assistant to the main boss there. What’s he like? I really don’t mind someone giving me a heads-up now.’
Dave wanted to burst into laughter. Smart one, he thought. ‘He’s cool,’ he began. ‘Very nice guy. He could be very serious at work, but if you get a hang of his person, you’ll enjoy working with him.’ He grinned with satisfaction.
Dunni nodded. ‘Thank you,’ she replied. ‘So, how much longer before we get there?’
He swiftly looked at his wristwatch. ‘About five minutes. Are you okay?’
‘Yes, I am. Just tad nervous,’ Dunni answered, smiling. ‘But, I’ll be fine.’
‘Well, you will, but you’re forgetting one thing.’
Dunni frowned slightly. She never forgot anything. ‘And what could that be?’
‘There’s a smudge of mud on your pants.’ She looked down at it and back at him, her eyes accusing him. ‘Look, I’m really sorry. I’ll find a way to fix it.’
How? Like wash it? Joker, she thought. ‘Not to worry, I brought a spare.’
Dave was astonished. She had a spare? That was weird. Had she orchestrated the whole event? Or she could see the future?
Seeing the look on his face, she smiled. ‘Knowing how Lagos drivers can be, especially on a rainy day, I had to plan well. I can’t let anyone ruin this one for me.’
Dave shook his head, laughing. He liked her already.
‘We’re here,’ he announced as he drove towards a black gate.
A security guard was standing by the car by the time he parked. ‘Good morning, oga,’ he said, bowing slightly.
‘Good morning, Adam,’ he replied. ‘How was your weekend?’
‘Fine sir,’ the man replied.
Dunni joined him at the front of the car and together, they walked towards a glass door. He opened it, letting her in.
‘Good morning, sir,’ a light-skinned lady, the receptionist, said as they entered the building.
‘Good morning, Ada. How was your weekend?’
‘Fine sir,’ she responded, grinning from ear to ear.
‘Great!’ Motioning for Dunni to come closer, he added, ‘This is Dunni. Please show her to the bathroom. She’s here for the interview.’
Dunni smiled at her. ‘Thank you,’ she called to Dave as she followed the lady.
Dunni was nervous. About five people had gone in before her and they all seemed to be at the top of their game. She had changed into the black skirt that she had kept in her bag as backup, but it still felt like the stain was there. Soon, it was her turn and she stood, smoothed her skirt and knocked on the door.
‘Please, come in,’ a deep voice called behind the door. She opened the door, ready to face her new employer. She was not ready for the surprise that hit her.
‘Hello Dunni. I’ve been waiting for you,’ Dave said, grinning.