A story written by INEGBENOISE OSEODION OSAGIE. (07068221839, 08093828575, [email protected])
The previous week’s purchase chart showed a huge declination of ten percent. Richard studied it, praying it was one of those mistakes associated with balancing purchases. It occurred to him it was no mistake the moment Jide entered his office wailing of how Cherlet Bans had come to change things. Two weeks of operation and they were already cutting down Erneto’s purchases. Ten percent was not a joke.
Richard tried placing everything on a plane sheet if there was anything that could give consolation. There was. Cherlet wouldn’t be able to continue with their fancy modus operandi of selling cement bags at almost same price as cost price. That surely wouldn’t last. Nonetheless, the issue would be properly addressed at the board meeting.
The door squeaked; this time, without a knock. That seldom happened, didn’t happen. It opened and the white girl entered, topped with a bobble hat. Richard stopped being surprised not to have heard a knock.
“Always knock before entering an office,” he said.
“Oh, I didn’t. I forgot. Forgive me, I’m not that mannerless.” She closed the door, and walked away from it in that her loosed manner, and still Jide nearly smiled at her.
“I reached your office. Your sec told me you were at the CEO’s,” she told Jide when he asked the reason for her coming.
In such a situation, the right thing to do was to wait in the secretary’s office. That was one of its purposes. Bad thing Canada didn’t teach her that. Her dad had an office; she should behave as such. He watched her lips for her next set of gall words.
“I’m sorry for not knocking if that’s still making you pissed,” she said to Richard, not smiling.
Her effort in staidness was enough to grant her a seat. She sat on the chair beside Jide and rested hands on her laps. “My name came out in the list of admitted students. I thought of telling you.”
“You plan on schooling here?” Richard blurted.
“Yes. My dad now works here. I want to be with him.”
“And her mum is in Switzerland. She says she prefers Africa to that place.” Jide shook his head.
“It’s Newfield University. All its schools, whether in Africa or America, maintain good standards.” She pushed back the forelock that covered her eyes. It fell again and covered the eyes. She pushed a second time, and when it fell again, she gave up. The air conditioner’s hum then amplified as though angered by her decision to school in the country. Schooling in Canada was better and people that appreciated education went for better. She wasn’t one of those people.
Getting admitted wasn’t all she came to tell Jide. She needed him to tour her round the university. Jide budged and told her the right thing every girl in her shoes ought to do—go meet daddy. Her dad was there to tour her round any place she’d want. She should go ask him.
“My dad is busy twenty-four hours. His company is new.”
Silly excuse, thought Richard, the silliest a child could ever give. She continued with her silly excuses of how busy her dad was, how she had asked him and he refused, and she had no one else to run to but Jide.
“This is your country,” she told Jide. “I’m the foreigner. In Canada, we are nice to visitors.”
“Don’t try to trap me with that,” Jide said.
“My dad wants me to wait till he has less work on his hands. Only God knows when that happens.”
“I will try,” Jide said, and caused her to beam. “Next week. But no promises. I’m not promising anything.”
Her beam widened, showing a stretch of her organized teeth, even with the promise of “no promises,” and she began talking of the good things she had read online about Newfield.
Power went off and the fan gradually stopped spinning. Only then did Ivie realize how silent the room was.
Richard repositioned his chair to the window’s side and stole all of the air Ivie and he were supposed to share. He sagged his tie to chest level and unfastened the first button. He adjusted a bit away from the window. And still, blocked most of the air, but she could manage the little that grazed her until the generator’s power came. The air was of more good to him. The beads of sweat hung at his brow needed to dry up. She nudged to a position of fair air.
“Any improvements?” he asked.
That wasn’t hers to determine, but the doctor’s. “I don’t know.”
“You ought to be conscious of your improvement. Have you been picking items so far?” He said the exact words of the doctor, converting the room to the doctor’s rounded office. She was supposed to be free of those questions inside the room.
She hadn’t been picking items. There was barely anything in the hospital to pick.
“You’re feeling any urge now?”
“No.” The devil was yet asleep and it should please remain asleep.
“I talked with the therapist, and he envisaged much improvement. He assured by the time they’re done, you’d be recovered.”
No doctor would say there had been no improvements.
The fans began spinning with a deafening whir, blowing the edges of the cornrows that escaped her hairnet. She shifted from the fan, but her hair continued flying.
His mobile phone vibrated against his briefcase. Before a ring could come through, he answered the call and told the caller he was at the psychiatric hospital and would be somewhere soon.
“That was the man with me on my visit to your previous hospital,” he said.
The man’s facial appearance had faded from her head, but his height had not. He was much taller than Richard. “He’s a friend?”
“Yes. And a colleague at work.”
“I remember his height.”
Richard smirked. “He acquired that in his secondary school days. We were together until after secondary school. I furthered to a defence academy. Him, a university.”
“You served in the defence?” Not much army qualities lived in him, except his square shoulders that nearly burst through his blazers, and maybe the way he walked. The few times she had seen him walk, his steps were mainly sharp and brisk like every minute counted.
“Once a lieutenant. Now a full time businessman. I prefer business to shooting.” He simpered and looked at her as if expecting a laugh.
She managed smirking, as it would be rude to make no remark to an attempted joke. Lieutenants were probably those who stayed in the office. He did not seem the type that would hold a gun and point it to the enemy. Neither did he seem like someone that had gone through the beatings people say their superiors gave them in training.
“Was it NDA?”
“Yes. It’s almost like the university, minus the exercise,” he said, “judging from what my friend told me about the university. Did you attend a University?”
“What was your study?”
He laced his fingers, same fingers that must have held and cracked a gun. “Does anyone know you’re here? Say your parents?”
Did he expect her to go bragging that she was on therapy for an evil disorder? “No one knows. My parents live up north.”
“You didn’t call to inform them you are in a hospital?”
Without using her mouth, she wished there were other ways to tell him to stop the questions. She could handle things on her own.
“I’m not a therapist, but I think one’s parents need to know their child is undergoing therapy. Would you want to be ignorant that your child is in a hospital receiving therapy?” He spoke as though she was a child who needed the warmth of her parents all day.
“I don’t have a child.”
“I don’t think any parent wants to be ignorant of his child’s health.”
He could be a priest or one of those church people who practiced celibacy. That would explain his help and philanthropic nature. Many stories have been told of soldiers who retired and joined priesthood. “You’re a priest?” she asked and caused him an unintended chuckle.
“What prompted you to think of me being a priest?”
“Your help, concern, and all. You don’t even know me. From my knowledge, only a priest does that. It’s not as though I’m not thankful. I am. I just wanted to ask questions.”
“No sin in asking. There’s no way I’d have left you on the road.” He paused. “If you hadn’t met me that day, no accident would have happened.”
“But it’s my fault.”
“No it isn’t. It’s the illness.”
“Did you know that before you helped, before you paid the hospital bills?” She fixed her gaze at him and prayed ungratefulness was not written in her words. The twitch of his nose gave the answer.
“I simply helped because it was right to do so.”
“What about my disorder? You have nothing to do with it. Why get involved?”
“I help people. It’s one of the things Christianity teaches us.”
WATCH OUT FOR PART 6