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Zach scrolled through her tweets. Most were about an upcoming fashion show the rest were random stuff and retweets. One tweet did stand out, though;
He read it again. He knew about Zaneta’s affair with Edith, he knew the frequency of their meets had suddenly dropped. He didn’t, however, know it was this bad. She was sounding like she was actually moving on.
He opened up a folder on the laptop. Casually, he looked through numerous pictures he had of the couple together. Many were taken in public places or through a window at Edith’s home. When you had someone under surveillance, it was only normal to find out a whole lot about their relationships. Many times you stumbled upon interesting stuff like the fact that your mark, who is a lady, is experimenting with another lady.
He shut down the laptop and walked into the room where Seyi slept softly in bed. He liked that about her, she slept like a baby. He looked her over, knowing their time together was soon coming to an end. Operation Steven would make certain of that.
He had looked into Seyi’s background and found nothing interesting or threatening – she was just a pretty girl from a humble home. He would let her go softly, maybe give her a parting gift and wish her a happy life.
He would wait a week before contacting Zaneta. Enough time to plan his grand entry into her life.
She had not slept much. She felt terrible. Dehydrated. Hot and sweaty. She knew this portended a crappy week ahead. Once she missed enough sleep on Sunday nights, it spilled into other days. She often never recovered till the next weekend.
She got out of the car and walked into the office building. A few days ago, she could take random cabs whenever Austin, her private cab guy, was unavailable. Not anymore. Her Uncle had been advised by his security consultant to tighten security around the house and his household. These days she was driven to work by someone who’s name she never learned and met unfamiliar faces in every part of the house – the new security detail. It made her wonder if the race for the VP spot was worth the trouble it brought. All of the security was terribly annoying.
“He’s handsome” she heard as she stepped into the office. It was Gladys, the intern.
“Excuse me?” Zaneta asked without breaking her stride.
“Your driver” she pressed.
“Oh! Errrmm….” she didn’t know his name.
Gladys raised one carefully shaped brow, “You don’t know his name?” she asked.
“I don’t” Zaneta said arriving at her desk
“But why are you like this?” Gladys asked, perching on the edge of Zaneta’s desk.
“But don’t you have work to do?” Zaneta shot back.
“You sha” Gladys hissed, got off the desk and made for the door.
“Don’t worry, he’ll be back to get me. You can sink your talons into him then”
Gladys made no reply.
It was almost her lunch hour when Gladys walked in without a knock and a wide grin on her face.
“It’s not yet time to go home” Zaneta said returning her gaze to her work.
“Shuush! There’s a delivery for you” she said.
“Ok? Where is it?” Zaneta asked.
“At my desk”
“I thought you said I had a delivery?”
“Relax! Your blood too dey hot”
Zaneta leaned back with a smile “I have half a mind to issue you a query right now”
“Oh? Because I brought you a message?”
“If you brought it, why is it not here, Gladys?” Zaneta stressed the “brought”.
“Na wah” Gladys retorted, spun on her heel and stomped out of the office.
“What a girl!” Zaneta said. She pushed back from her desk. She could guess who the gift was from – Edith. Or Edith and Sebastian. She rolled her eyes as she heard chatter just outside her door. The girls were on their way to her office.
Her door swung open and in came Alice – the bride-to-be, Gladys and Febi.
“What?” she feigned aggressiveness as she got out of her seat.
“Sit down, my friend”, that was Febi, the HR manager. She had a strong, almost domineering personality.
Gladys held in her hand a small bouquet of long stemmed red roses and a wrapped box.
“Who’s awa new toaster?” Alice asked.
“I have no idea” Zaneta responded as Gladys set the items on her table with plenty fanfare.
“Don’t play with me, girl” Febi said, she clearly didn’t believe Zaneta’s response.
“Go on. Open it. There’s no name on the outside” Alice urged
Zaneta sighed. None of them knew about Edith. Alice only knew Edith as a friend of hers, nothing more. She picked up the bouquet, it was nice, very nice. She placed the roses back on the desk then picked up the wrapped box and turned it around a few times, there was no sender’s name anywhere on it.
“Thank you, ladies” she said, sat back down and made to get back to work. She knew it wouldn’t work.
“Is like ya mad and you don’t have anyone to tell you! Open something my friend!” Febi said in strongly accented English making everyone laugh.
“Ooooooohhhh naaa!” Zaneta complained. Her heart was racing. How would she explain to these very smart, ‘tear-eyed’ girls why a female friend would send her such an expensive looking bouquet on a random Monday?
“Let me help you” Alice said, and before Zaneta could object, she had picked up the box and began to open its wrapping.
“Can you relax?” Febi queried. Zaneta looked towards the box, managing to tear her eyes away from the unwrapping Alice was doing. The look on Febi’s face told her there was something wrong with her own look. She quickly smiled and looked away.
“Aaaaahhhhhh!” Gladys crooned as the contents of the gift wrapped box was revealed – chocolate
“And what do we have here?” Alice asked, peeling a card off the box. Zaneta flew out of her seat in a bid to snatch the card out of Alice’s fingers, but was beaten to it by Febi who didn’t have the disadvantage of having a desk between her and Alice.
“See this one oh!” Febi said laughing as she waved the card in Zaneta’s face.
“Madam, camm dann!” Gladys said to a frozen Zaneta.
“Who’s it from?” Alice asked, urging Febi to read the card.
“Hello. Z.” Febi read.
“Hello, Z?” Alice asked confused.
Zaneta saw her opportunity and grabbed the card:
That was all. She turned it over, it was blank. She read it one more time and suddenly it hit her – Zach! The dude from the other weekend at the mall! The dog food guy! The Volvo guy! What was the name of his dog again? At the same time relief washed over her from the realisation this was not from Edith.
She looked at her colleagues and laughed in their faces as she placed the card on the table.
“So? Who is ‘Z’?”
“No nah. She is ‘Z’. The person is saying ‘hello’” Gladys said.
“Mumu, Read the card. It’s from ‘Z’” Febi said to Gladys, then “Isn’t it?” she asked Zaneta.
“Whoever Mr. Z is, thank him for these lovely chocolate cookies” Alice said as she began opening the box of cookies, “very tasteful of him. I like me a man of taste” she added.
“Yeye. Like the one you have is not enough” Zaneta fired back. She liked her position now. The mystery and the items themselves were making her look cool this moment. She intended to enjoy it.
“Oh my God! Koibito chocolate cookies? Where did he get these from?” Alice screamed.
“What?” Febi asked, noticing for the first time the box was leather.
“I need to meet this guy, Zaneta!” Alice said.
It was just her and Alice, it was 6:39pm. The office was still alive with activity, but most had gone home.
“So, who’s he?” Alice asked as she ate a chocolate cookie.
“I don’t know. Met him at the mall, he gave me a ride, he took my card, I didn’t think much of it” Zaneta replied. She had refused to answer any of the million questions the ladies had asked her earlier about the mystery man, but she knew she would eventually tell Alice.
When they had finally left her alone, after raiding her box of chocolate, she had tried calling Zach to thank him for the gift and his thoughtfulness but it had rang out, then she got a text back:
“Hey! In a meeting. I’m sorry I can’t take your calls now. SMS?”
To which she had replied with:
“Alright, just wanted to say thanks for the flowers and cookies. Let me know when you are done with the meeting“
“That’s interesting. So, what do you think?” Alice asked, looking her in the eye.
“I don’t know. Dude didn’t even take my ‘thank you’ call, had to send an SMS”
“He’ll call back” Alice said, then “You should go home. Your driver has been downstairs since 5:30pm”
Zaneta sighed. “This life” she said, shutting her MacBook Air as she rose. She was yet to get used to all of the new things her uncle was placing in her life.
“Mrs. Kadiri called today, she asked after you”
“She shouldn’t ask after me jooor. Her wahala is too much. I’m an online community manager, abeg, not a graphic designer. You do them a favour once, they want to make it their right” she said as she picked up her bag and the rest of the chocolate cookies.
“He didn’t get that from around here, you know?” Alice said pointing at the box of cookies as she rose.
“I noticed” Zaneta replied. She wasn’t sure the flowers that now sat in a vase by her window were from around here either.
She decided to take the stairs downstairs. The four-floor descent would do her some good.
“Good evening, ma. Home?” The driver asked her as she got in the car. It was the same thing every day.
“Good evening. Yes, please” she replied as always.
As the car moved off, she took out her phone and checked. Still no message or call from him.
He was looking at her IG post. It was a picture of the items he had sent her. The flowers were in a vase beside the opened box of cookies on her desk. The caption read:
“It’s nice to be remembered“
The post already had 39 likes. He was tempted to make it 40, but knew there was no point.
He was scanning through the comments when his phone rang, it was her. ‘This is going really well‘ he thought.
When she had called, he was not in a meeting. He was actually boarding a plane for Abuja. It was a business jet, 8 of them were on board, all ex-Nigerian military. The only foreigner was the pilot, an ex-South African Air Force pilot. There was nothing unusual about the trip, they happened often. However, with the primaries around the corner, the trips had become more frequent.
He loved field jobs, a lot more than his cover as a facility manager for about 13 office and residential buildings on the Island which belonged to one of the men on the flight. The pay was more than commensurate, the life-style was easy and commanded respect, still he found it boring. Being a private security personnel and field operative was what he lived for these days. His days in the Nigerian Army were over, but those who had known him and liked him back then had got him to join their own army.
The man on who’s payroll he was sat across from him scanning some documents. A military contractor and big time campaign contributor to the present administration. The other was a serving Senator, also of the ruling party. These were the men who’s job it was to make sure their party was victorious at the polls again in the coming elections.
He was in his hotel room with Malik whose full attention was on the monitor before him, on which he surveyed the meeting in the next room. Two men on their flight were meeting with two others – the sitting President’s Chief of Staff and the Ruling Party’s Zonal Chairman.
He picked up his call, walking away from Malik, “Hey!” he said.
“Hi” Zaneta’s voice came over the line.