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Teni sat in a nicely cushioned swivel chair and worked steadily on her laptop. Her new office was spacious and a lot nicer than the small one she had before. She looked up from her laptop soon and sighed. One month later and she was still finding it hard to completely erase Kachi from her thoughts. They had not spoken a word to each other since she left his hotel that night. Kachi was stubborn and proud just like herself. She sighed again and turned back to her laptop. She was sure he had moved on. But she knew he would return. He always did eventually. Only when he returned, he would pretend like they never had the fight. Kachi always had her on an emotional roller coaster. The thought of that had her worried. She sighed and turned back to her laptop. This was tiring.
Her new job was exciting however. She had resumed as manager two weeks ago. The director at her former office actually told her she was free to leave whenever and so after two weeks, she called it quits. Her duties as manager were not really complicated and she was able to handle herself. She took charge of the place, drew up a plan, set goals and executed her tasks with a diligence and precision that amazed everyone. Anyone found slacking on her team was laid off. Teni was that ruthless. She had fired two people already and she didn’t care. It made every other person up their game. And that was all she needed; optimal performance from each one of them. She contracted a DJ and set up a nice cozy spot downstairs. So there was music and there was a barbecue. She also had people who prepared asun, suya and grilled fish. The traffic to the hotel increased rapidly. She had done that in just two weeks.
When Charly came to the hotel the night before, he could not believe his eyes. His business was booming. He nearly fell over Teni as he tried to express his gratitude to her for resurrecting his business and Teni was amused. When he asked after Kachi, Teni said he was fine and was disappointed to hear that he had not heard from Kachi since he left for Dubai. She wanted some information on how he was faring but she was too proud to call him and ask for herself. She wasn’t even sure what she felt anymore but she knew that she definitely missed him. She sighed. Kachi. Emotional roller coaster indeed.
Someone knocked on her door and she looked up as one of the hotel staff led in a middle aged woman. The woman looked very troublesome and was clearly spoiling for a fight. Teni was not in the mood but she put on her best smile and fixed her eyes on the woman as the young man who brought her proceeded to state the problem.
“Ma, this lady has a problem and would like to see you.”
The lady immediately snapped
“I do not have a problem my friend! You and your incompetent people are the ones with a problem.”
She turned to Teni and eyed her.
“So you’re the manager? Wonders will never end. Why should a woman be a hotel manager sef?”
Teni felt the irritation crawl up her spine but she kept her smile in place.
“Is there something I can help you with ma’am?”
“My money! You people can help me with my money! Otherwise I will call police.”
Teni massaged her temples. The lady was not making any sense.
“Ma’am, you still haven’t told me anything I can work with-”
“Your useless staff here, collected my money and did not reserve my room. I made a reservation a month ago for an executive suite. I called last week to check that the room was still available and they said yes. Only for me to show up today and the room isn’t available anymore. And I’m being told to manage one of the smaller rooms. Do I look like someone who manages anything? I paid N450,000 to be here for three nights. Four hundred and fifty thousand naira! Now I want it back. And I want it in cash!”
Teni looked the woman over. She was tired. People like this got on her nerves. People with a sense of entitlement and privilege. She would deal with the staff who was responsible for the error later but for now, she would handle the woman. She looked at her and smiled.
“Alright ma’am. There are two things I could do for you. I could write you a cheque of N450,000 because we really do not keep cash around here for security reasons. Or I could give you one of our presidential suites and complimentary breakfast meals for the duration of your stay here at no extra charges at all. Which would you rather have?”
The woman’s eyes grew big and she adjusted herself. Teni knew she had won her over.
“Errm. I think I’ll just stay. After all the meeting I’m having is taking place in one of your halls.”
Teni smiled but her smile held no warmth. It was a ‘see-how-cheap-you-are’ kind of smile.
“I guess that’ll be all then. Tunde, please show the lady to a presidential suite then find out who was responsible for the error and send them back to me.”
The young man who had brought in the lady nodded and led her out. Teni turned her attention back to her laptop. She checked the time on her watch. It was 2:30pm. She had a doctor’s appointment. It was time to take the first step towards the process of making her baby. She packed up her laptop, picked her handbag and left the office.
Bobby walked in through the front door of Jenkins & Co, Accountants and Consultants. He dropped his card with the lady at the front desk and requested to see the director finance. They had an appointment. While he waited for her to confirm his appointment, a young lady in a fitted dress and high heels walked in through the door and straight past him. Bobby looked up and noticed the way she swung her hips as she walked. He shook his head. But what held him spellbound was the short afro she was carrying. It looked like her natural hair. Bobby was a sucker for natural hair.
The front desk lady cleared her throat in an attempt to get his attention. Bobby turned and she smirked at him. He was slightly embarrassed. He was sure she assumed he was staring at the lady’s hips. He sighed. If only.
“The director will see you now.”
He nodded, got up and walked in the direction the lady had gone. He found the director’s office and knocked on the door before going in. The pretty lady with the afro hair was seated in front of the director and Bobby found himself smiling.
“Hi Bobby, good to see you. Please take a seat. This is Kate, she’ll be joining us for the meeting. Let’s make this is as brief as possible please, I’ve got another important meeting in twenty minutes.”
The lady turned and Bobby was momentarily disappointed. She had heavy make-up on and fake eye lashes. She also wore coloured contacts. But the afro was real. It was her natural hair. She stretched her hands out to him and her accent made him irritable. It sounded forced.
“Hi Bobby, nice to meet you.”
He managed a smile and shook her hands.
They both sat in front of the director and the middle aged man began to speak.
“Bobby, it’s just like I told Dele at your office. Neither of our firms has the required funds and manpower to independently take on the contract for the audit reports and you know it. I need you to convince Dele to stop being stubborn and selfish. There is a time and place for rivalry and competition in business and there is also a time to humble yourself and admit to your incapacities. Both our firms are at that point.
One of my best hands just left the firm a couple of weeks ago so I am in an even tighter position. So talk to Dele, let us work together. There’s a lot of money at stake here. You and Kate here can work out the finer details but make Dele see reason why this will work.”
Bobby looked at Kate who was busy picking her nails. There was something about her manner that left him really curious and annoyed at the same time. He did not like the feeling at all. He turned his attention back to the man in front of him and spoke.
“I absolutely understand you sir. And Mr. Dele does as well. But I think his problem is the profit sharing ratio. I personally think 65:35 is unfair. Granted you might have more money, but we have more people. You brought up the idea to partner together on this job but we could easily walk away if we so choose. Let’s make it even; 50:50. It’s either that or nothing. I find that extremely generous on the part of my firm because we could easily ask for 55:45 or even 60:40. But like you said, let’s both be reasonable here. The bid opening is in two weeks. We do not have time for games.”
The director looked annoyed and he turned to Kate.
“What do you think?”
Kate stopped picking her nails and looked up, not at Bobby, but at the director.
“55:45 or nothing. That’s the best we can do. It is business and not romance. Money has got to be made. If they don’t play ball, we move on. Something better will come. Something better always comes.”
She picked up her phone and began fiddling with it.
Bobby felt insulted. She had totally disregarded him. Were it left to him, he would have called the deal off but his boss had told him that if they agreed to 55:45 at the very worst, he should take it. It was better than the 65:35 the firm had initially proposed.
The director’s voice brought him back to the room.
“You heard her. That’s the best we can do.”
Bobby turned a grim face to the director.
“Fine. We’ll take that. When do we get started?”
“This very minute. Follow Kate to her office. You’re both officially in charge of this. Work together, come up with a list of people from both sides that will work on this project let us have all the details. We’ll have a meeting with the entire team in two days.”
Bobby got up and shook the director’s hand. Kate disregarded him again and walked right out of the office. Bobby was very irritated but he did his best to keep his cool. As he opened the door, he nearly bumped into her. She was standing just by the door, waiting for him.
“My office is this way.”
She walked briskly and he followed her into a much smaller room than the director’s.
“I already have my list. I don’t know what other details Mr. Azu is talking about but I’ll give you my number so you can call me if anything comes up.”
Bobby decided he’d had just about enough of her attitude.
“Why are you so stuck up?”
It was almost as though he’d slapped her. She turned her eyes sharply from her phone.
“You heard me. Why are you so stuck up? What’s with the attitude? You have been condescending, barely acknowledging my presence right from the moment I walked into the office.”
“Aren’t we an attention seeker?”
“You really think you’re cute don’t you?”
“You need to calm down. I have no idea what you’re talking about. I’ve got work to do and I’d like to get on with it.”
She wrote her number on a notepad, tore off the sheet and gave it to him.
“Here. Call me if you need to discuss anything further. And for your information, if I was being condescending like you’re accusing me, I would not agree to work on this project with you and I would not be giving my number to you just like that.”
Bobby breathed deeply. She was getting under his skin. That didn’t happen often. He was usually more patient than this.
He took the piece of paper from her and admired the neat handwriting that showed off not just her number but her full name as well; ‘Kate Tariye’. He smiled.
“Lose the plastic look, it doesn’t suit you. Your hair is perfect by the way.”
He walked out and shut the door behind him. He was going to find a way to get even. She had gotten to him in a manner that was both annoying and intriguing.
Teni drove into the hotel premises and parked her car in the special corner reserved for her. It had been a long day and she was tired. After spending an hour at the hospital, she finally saw a doctor who talked her through the entire procedure and asked her to go find a donor. That was going to be the hard part. When she talked about artificial insemination, she never really considered whose child she wanted to carry and when Kachi showed up, she figured he was the perfect candidate, only she had mentioned it jokingly and he had taken offence. She tried to think of someone else that would not mind but kept drawing blanks. She got down from her car and headed towards the main entrance. She would come back to check on the services outside but the music sounded good and she liked the number of cars she could see parked out. The night was young; there would be more customers soon. She was more or less living in the hotel these days. She could not remember the last time she slept in her apartment. Perhaps it was time to give it up but she wondered if she could handle living in a hotel. It just did not feel like home.
She turned and looked back. It was Kayode. She smiled pleasantly and walked back in his direction.
“Hi! Longest time!”
She hugged him warmly
“No see! After you ground me and my cousin’s hearts to dust!”
“You’re not serious. How are you?”
“I’m fine thanks. Heard this place was bubbling so I came to check it out with my friends. They’re over there.”
He pointed in a direction and Teni’s eyes followed him. She sighted Bobby and her heart did a double take. They had not really spoken since after the accident.
“Oh, I see. That’s nice.”
“So what are you doing here? You have a new maga?”
He grinned mischievously and Teni punched him lightly.
“No be only maga. I work here. I’m actually the hotel manager.”
Kayode’s eyes were big and round.
“No I’m not and don’t look so surprised.”
“Wait, I thought you said you are an accountant or something like that?”
“I was. I quit my accounting job two weeks ago and took up this one. It’s more fun and pays better.”
“Wow! That is amazing! You’ve got to come say hi to my friends. We heard that some smart hottie took over this place and revamped it, I had absolutely no idea it was you. We must wash it o.”
Teni laughed hard.
“Kayode, leave me o. I’ll come join you guys in a bit, I promise. Let me just go and freshen up. It’s been a long day.”
“Alright dear. No wahala. We dey wait o. Sharp sharp.”
Teni laughed and walked away. She thought about Bobby and smiled. The night looked like it was going to be fun after all. She decided to momentarily forget about the problem of a sperm donor and enjoy herself tonight. If she was to be honest with herself, her nights had been a little lonely. She tried to cover it up with work but it never really worked. She missed Kachi.
She hurried into the building and took the elevator to the penthouse where she had been sleeping for the past week. She showered quickly and changed into a nice evening dress that accentuated her curves but was free from the waist down. Her makeup was light and she combed her hair and packed it neatly into a bun then made her way back into the elevator and downstairs again.
She found the guys easily enough and walked up to them. Kayode whistled as soon as she appeared. She smacked his head and stretched her hand to Jakes.
Jakes took her hand and smiled warmly.
“Nice to meet you Teni, Jakes.”
She turned to Bobby who was upstanding and smiled.
Bobby smiled calmly and stretched his hand.
“Good to see you again Teni.”
She was slightly disappointed but she shook his hand warmly.
“Please sit.” Bobby said politely
She took a seat next to him and crossed her legs.
“Kayode was just telling us you run this place. Incredible. Well done. No one seemed to know about this place and all of a sudden it’s becoming popular. Really, well done.”
Bobby shook her hand again and Teni allowed herself enjoy his compliment for a bit before she responded.
“Thank you. It really wasn’t difficult. I just needed to identify the crucial thing that was missing and fix it in. No hotel thrives without a night life.”
“Ah. True!” Jakes intoned. He seemed impressed by her.
“I like that you’re the manager here. I’ll be coming regularly for free drinks.” Kayode said
Teni looked at him and laughed.
“Look at this one. Are you ever serious?”
“Serious people are in the grave.” Kayode said simply.
“Nope! You would have been in the grave a few months ago if it weren’t for Teni.” Bobby quipped.
“Grouchy grandpa returns.”
Teni, Kayode and Jakes burst into laughter and Bobby sipped his drink.
“You guys aren’t serious. Madam hotel manager, please do you guys have a pool here? I’d like to come swimming sometime.”
“Yeah we do. It’s somewhere in the back. You can come whenever. I’ll let you swim for free. Probably give you a lesson or two.”
“If I didn’t know any better, I’d think you’re hitting on Bobby.” Kayode said.
Teni laughed easily. He had no clue. She was feeling only a little flirty tonight.
“Unfortunately Bobby doesn’t have eyes for the women.”
Jakes and Kayode laughed. Apparently it was some private joke. She looked at Bobby who smiled dryly.
“Please, excuse my friends. They are known to be senseless.”
“Ah! Kay baba, you got it a little wrong. He doesn’t have eyes for the women except they’re Ese.”
The guys laughed again and Teni sipped from the bottle of Smirnoff ice that had since appeared before her.
Kayode’s phone rang and he excused himself to answer it. He did not stay up to a minute and he returned.
“I’ll have to leave you guys soon. My cousin says she’s crashing at my place tonight. Apparently she’s fighting with everyone in her family.”
They all laughed and Jakes turned his eyes back to Teni.
“Seriously though, Teni, I’m the only one who hadn’t met you before. Now I see why you impressed these guys. Although anything in skirts impresses Kayode.”
All four of them laughed and Jakes continued.
“But you’re a pretty woman with brains. That’s unusual. We should drink to it.”
Teni had an amused expression on her face.
“Why is it unusual? So pretty women don’t have brains or women with brains aren’t pretty?”
Kayode said “Ghen ghen!” and they all burst into laughter.
“I’m curious Jakes. Make your point.”
“I was just saying. Most women whether pretty or ugly don’t have brains. Or if they do, they don’t use them.”
The smile on Teni’s face disappeared speedily. Even Bobby looked offended and quickly chided him.
“Jakes, that wasn’t a smart thing to say.”
“But it was the truth.” Jakes said
“No. That is what you assume and believe to be true. But that is a far cry from the truth. There are smart, hardworking women all over the place. You’re just not observant enough.”
“And there are the women who sit about doing nothing, waiting for some man to come rescue them and marry them off into a life of posh houses, exotic trips and the general luxurious life style.”
“Jakes stop. Really, what’s the point of this?” Bobby shot him a warning look but he ignored it. Teni had a plastic smile on her face. Bobby could tell she was about to hit back. He certainly did not intend to have an awkward night.
“The point is, I respect that she’s done well, but we can’t deny that most women are a general pain in the butt always looking for someone to latch themselves to and the ones who are smart and successful have the suckiest attitudes ever. This one looks cool though.”
Teni could not believe her ears. So here was someone who did not know her but had already formed an opinion about her and was generally condescending towards women. He had to be joking! She could not stand him anymore. Her anger had gotten to boiling point.
“I think it’s extremely retarded for you to have such a low opinion of women in general particularly when so many of us out here are breaking out backs trying to make a decent living. Matter of fact, I’m not even going to engage you in this conversation. You have nothing to add to me.”
She got up and stormed off. This one! He had called her this one! Who in the world did he think he was? She heard footsteps behind her but she hastened hers and walked towards the pool located somewhere at the back of the hotel. Thankfully, it was empty. She walked to the poolside, took off her slippers and sat down with her feet in the water. She wanted to just cry. She was tired, angry and frustrated. How was it that no man in the world had any bit of sense? Why did they all have to be stupid?
Bobby appeared beside her suddenly. He took off his palm slippers, rolled up his trousers and sat down beside her dipping his feet in the water as well. She was grateful for his company but didn’t say a word to him.
“Water is such a great therapist! I always take a shower or go swimming when I’m pissed. It usually helps.”
Teni smiled and turned to him.
“Same for me too. Your friend is such an idiot.”
“I know. I wonder why we’re friends sometimes.”
“Maybe coz you’re an idiot as well?”
“Naah. I’m grouchy grandpa. Don’t forget that.”
Teni laughed hard.
“Ha. I won’t.”
They were silent for a while and then Teni asked
“Grandpa, can I get a hug? It’s been one crazy day.”
He threw his arms around her and Teni snuggled comfortably. She held onto him tightly and enjoyed the musky scent that was his and in that moment, everything around her came to a complete halt.